When Viking warriors die in battle, they’re supposed to go to Valhalla, but not if Loki steals Odin’s good eye. When that happens, Odin invokes long lost powers and raises his warriors from the grave as Viking Zombies!
Genre(s): Beat’em Up
Developer: Zoink Games
Publisher: Zoink Games
Release Date: December 2015
Played: Main campaign
Platforms: PC, PS4
Zombie Vikings is a 2D beat’em-up in the same vein as Final Fight, Double Dragon and, to a lesser extent, Castle Crashers. On the pursuit of Loki you control one of four characters—with a fifth joining near the end of the adventure—each having unique fighting styles and special abilities: Seagurd is a poor sailor fused with a squid in the afterlife, so now they share a body. He’s a balanced fighter. Gunborg the muscle-pumper is cool for closing distances with enemies and can take out large groups. Caw-kaa and Hedgy are faster fighters, with Hedgy being the extreme of it.
But they’re not voiceless and soulless avatars. They’ll talk among each other in cutscenes, react to NPC comments and with their personal quests you discover their personalities, humour and backstories. Gunborg, Seagurd and Hedgy’s stories are fantastic, and the humour in their segments made it really hard to play the game. I was laughing too hard. Caw-kaa on the other hand doesn’t have much going for her and while her story is completely ridiculous, there just isn’t much of it.
The game has around eight acts, each with two or more levels and then a boss fight. The levels are just what you’d expect from a beat’em up: waves of enemies and some breakable objects with healing items and coins. Zombie Vikings add NPCs and sidequests to the mix. These secondary quests are as ridiculous as the rest of the game and award you a new sword on completion.
The problem with the enemies and quests is that they’re too repetitive. When you change acts you get new enemies but for the most part they all behave the same. You have your basic minor enemies, your bigger ones you actually need to dodge and then there are the mini-boss level ones that have one particular weakness. But it’s always the same weakness and they always have the same abilities, so even early on the new enemies just feel samey. And it’s a shame because the combat is really fun, but without new enemy types, there’s no incentive to try new things, be creative or just a better player.
Quests have the same issues since they’re all fetch-quests. Go there, pick something up and bring it back to the NPC, be it a box of treats or snowballs for an iceman. Some variation would’ve been good, from a kill-quest to something with a one-off fun mechanic, just to spice things up.
The weapons you receive are funny as hell. I mean, from a skunk-tail sword to a witch’s giant nose, the weapons are hilarious. There’s even a cat on a pole that scratches enemies if they come close. I didn’t use most weapons, because the balance of strengths vs weaknesses were a bit unbalanced. There’s one near the end of the game that gives you lots of damage but takes a giant hit on your speed and health. The boost in damage in no way makes up for what you’re losing. But overall, you’ll pick the weapon that fits your play-style the best.
It’s the same with the characters. Each of the Zombie Vikings has normal and signature moves, and you can charge both of them for extra effect. Seagurd’s charged and special skills use his squid partner’s body to move the enemies around or just land tons of hits. Gunborg acts like a tank, throwing her arm out to pull herself to distant enemies a la Scorpion, and can explode if she charges her muscles too much, dealing tons of AoE damage.
I played with each of the characters in their particular act, so I could see how they all played and my favourite is Seagurd. I like balanced characters and by equipping runes I made up for some of his weaknesses, so by the end he didn’t have many flaws.
Visually the game is very charming, with a fantastic paper theatre style. Characters are completely flat, which you can tell when they turn around and just ‘flip’ over. The background images are paper cutouts, with tons of tiny little details, from warning signs, hate speech to Seagurd—a whale lover in a whaling town—or signs of Thor promoting the Berserker energy drinks. My favourite chapter was Seagurd’s as the paper theatre effect looked lovely on the waves in the background. Bosses and major story characters look delightful, particularly Loki’s Witch ‘girlfriend’ and Hel.
I love the writing and the humour, even if it takes many liberties with Norse Myth. There are slapstick humour, popular culture references, tongue-in-cheek comments and so much more. The game is funny from start to finish. From the prologue down to the credits, it’s all wonderfully silly. This is a game that doesn’t take itself seriously and I applaud that, because it shouldn’t. Zoink Games mock themselves in Zombie Vikings and the result is beautiful.
The visuals, gameplay and writing already had me, and then the music came in and I knew I was in love. Have you ever seen the old Adam West Batman series? Do you remember the beach-side go-go music everyone danced to? Well, a lot of the music in Zombie Vikings is like that, just pure on party and good time music. As I played, I found myself nodding to the sweet tunes at first, before ending up dancing on my chair. It’s really cool.
Performances are great and kudos to the actors for keeping straight faces with some of those lines.
The audio complements the written humour with a few funny details. When you pass a checkpoint you hear a crowd cheer “CHECKPOINT!” and when you pause, the music shifts to a slow jazzy beat, with the lead singer harmonising on the word “Pause.” It’s perfect.
Zombie Vikings has a few issues, mostly in repetitive design, but the combat is fast and fun and it comes wrapped in several layers of funny stuff. If you like beat’em ups, then try Zombie Vikings. I played it on my own for this review, but I had some co-op fun during Rezzed 2015. Trust me, it’s twice as good (or four times if you have that many players).
4.5/5 – Amazing!