Developer: Clever Beans
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
Developed by Manchester-based Clever Beans, this cel-shaded brawler is simply brilliant. With its charming visual style and insanely engaging gameplay, When Vikings Attack! is pure, unadulterated fun.
With the impending launch of the Wii U later this month, we’re seeing somewhat of a resurgence in local multiplayer, and with the advent of what Nintendo is calling asymmetric gameplay, Sony and Microsoft are keen to prove that, whatever Nintendo can do, they can do better.
We’ve already seen Microsoft’s plans to enhance the Xbox gaming experience with Smartglass, and at the Eurogamer Expo 2012, Sony were really pushing the notion of crossplay between their PlayStation 3 and PSVITA systems. Developed by Manchester-based Clever Beans, When Vikings Attack! is the latest title to take advantage of Sony’s generosity.
Purchase the game once for just £7.99/€9.99/$9.99 and you’ll receive both the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita versions of the game for your enjoyment. Up to four can play using any combination of DualShocks and PlayStation Vita systems. Frankly, Vita integration doesn’t add much to the experience aside from cross-save functionality, but it’s of no detriment to what is a fantastic game, and one of the most fun titles available on the PlayStation Store to date.
The premise of this cel-shaded brawler is fantastically simple. Viking, for reasons unbeknown to us, have invaded 1970s Britain, and it’s down to a ragtag bunch of citizens to give them the boot. You control a Pikmin-esque gang of cutesy policemen, nurses, farmers, businessmen and more, and it’s your job to pick up whatever you can find and lob it at the invaders to dispel the threat of invasion – bins, postboxes, barrels, hay bales, tables, parasols: it’s all fair game.
Equally simple are the game’s controls; you move around the arena with the left analogue stick. As you walk into objects, your minions will automatically hoist them above their heads. From there, you can either rotate the projectile with R1/L1 or launch it with the Square or Circle button. Repeatedly pressing the shoulder buttons will cause the object to frantically spin, allowing it to deal a bit more damage than it otherwise would.
Your defensive options are similarly limited; you can press the X button to dash, which acts not only as a dodge mechanic, but as a means to catch and steal any objects that might be flying your way. Aside from that, your only means of survival are to hide behind the plethora of environmental objects
Essentially, the game boils down to throwing as much crap as possible whilst avoiding the crap that’s being thrown at you. In that sense, it almost feels like Geometry Wars, just not quite as brutal.
Quest Mode sees you battling and brawling through the game’s 15 scenarios, either alone or with a friend. At the end of each level, you’ll come across a boss fight, some of which are fiendishly difficult, particularly if you’re playing alone. Quest Mode is technically the main meat of the game, though in all honesty, you’ll probably spend more time in the hilariously hectic VS Battle Mode.
Clever Beans have done a fantastic job in keeping a simple concept massively entertaining, thanks largely to its surprisingly sophisticated physics engine. Watching items fly around the stage at breakneck speeds, bouncing around the environments and off one another is strangely satisfying, especially in the later levels where it can get really frantic. It’s just a joy to watch, especially at a silky smooth 60fps.
A deceptively simple game, When Vikings Attack! actually holds more in the way of strategy than first meets the eye.
Occasionally, reinforcements will enter the fray. Simply walk into them to recruit them to your crew. Having fewer members in your team means you’ll be fast, but also fairly weak and vulnerable. Having more members in your team will slow you down a bit, but you become stronger collectively. This allows you to pick up the game’s heavier items – like cars, tractors and disco balls – as if they were marshmallows from last night’s bonfire. Relevant.
The locales, of which there are plenty, are all interactive in some fashion. One of our favourites features a busy crossroad. Throwing items at the lights will alter the flow of traffic, which, as you can imagine, can prove fatal to the opposing team if timed right. Other maps feature Portal-style openings; throw something into it and it’ll shoot out at the opposite side of the map, catching your opponent unaware. It all adds to the ongoing chaos.
If you find yourself a little low on numbers, you can throw a paint-filled missile at your adversaries which, upon impact, will force them to defect to your team. In fact, at one point, my group consisted entirely of Vikings. Be careful, though, because they can actually do the same to you.
When Vikings Attack! looks great, and its quirky style is complimented perfectly by a playful soundtrack, kooky sound effects and genuinely amusing character shouts that Clever Beans refer to as ‘Ey-ups’ in fantastically Northern fashion. The game is delightfully British, and most regional dialects are accounted for – Cockney, Geordie, Scouse and Lancashire being personal favourites.
Quest Mode will run you approximately seven hours, but you could easily spend triple that in VS Mode. The game’s simplicity and relatively small amount of content is reflected in its budget price tag, so don’t let that put you off; as with most party games, if you can grab a couple of mates and a few beers, this game has some serious potential for longevity.
Of course, as this studio’s first project, there are a few niggling faults. The enemy AI can be a little bit stupid at times, though to be honest, there are a few occasions where you’ll be glad of this as you can get hugely outnumbered.
By the very virtue of its design, When Vikings Attack! just isn’t much fun to play on your own. Specifically, the boss battles in Quest Mode were clearly designed to be taken on by two players; taking them down on your own can be somewhat frustrating, particularly the ones with shields. Social pariahs may want to give this one a miss.
Despite a few very slight faults, though, Clever Beans’ first foray into the PlayStation Store is just bloody fun. Providing you have a couple of buddies to play with, When Vikings Attack! is more than worthy of your money. Go buy it.
When Vikings Attack! launches November 7th in Europe for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.