Genre: Puzzle Developer: Silicon & Synapse Publisher: Interplay/Ballistic Players: 1-3 Released: 1993
In my search for a fine co-op game for the Mega Drive, I found the puzzle/platformer called The Lost Vikings. Since my impatient comrade couldn’t enjoy as I could, I had to play it by myself, which in the end turned out to be not so bad after all.
Erik, Baleog and Olaf are three vikings. Their unique abilities as life forms attracts the space zoo owner Tomator, who decides to suck the vikings out of their homes and into his spaceship. Of course, the vikings want to go home, but that won’t be easy. First they must get to Tomator, who is over forty levels away. The vikings will travel through time in periods such as the pre-historic era, ancient Egypt and in a great factory.
To get through the levels, you have to solve many puzzles, and to solve the puzzles, you need to use the skills of the vikings. Erik can run and bash into walls, so they break open for you, and he can jump up on platforms. Baleog slays opponents with his sword or arrow and bow, which can also be used to change switches that are out of reach. Olaf has a shield to block attacks or enemies with, and he can also softly glide down pits without hurting himself. A very basic puzzle could be structured like this: Have Erik jump up on a platform and get a key. Use the key to open a door and let Olaf block an enemy behind it with his shield. Then Baleog slays him and gets the next key.
For the first half of the game, it is very easy and you will run through the levels in no time. However, when you get to the factory, more problems involving timing and reflexes occur, and the simplicity you previously felt is long gone. The Lost Vikings starts to become frustrating, not because the puzzles are hard, but because the controls are slippery, and very minor mistakes force you to begin a truly tiring level all over again. Then imagine how this would be if you are playing with one or two inferior players with a lower tolerance level for this. It would be a curse fest that would take forever to get through.
At the same time, many puzzles are practically made for multi-player. If you play alone, quickly tap the mode button to smoothly switch characters while the game is frozen. That is highly recommended if you want to beat the most intense tricks. I doubt any human can play this game to the end with a three-button controller without going insane.
Due to a very low number of colours, the graphics look very bad for a 1993 game. They can probably be done on the Master System without much loss. It seems like they have used “Standard Palette 1A.” This doesn’t only apply to the the Mega Drive version, the console famous for its limited palette. No, the other versions, for example those for SNES and Amiga, look pretty much exactly the same. With that said, The Lost Vikings scores some points for its comical animation and character design. Perhaps due to the puzzles’ complexity, they force the level structure and tile sets to be very limited when it comes to realism, but I think that is just for the better.
The music was written by Matt Furniss, and it used the sound driver from Shaun Hollingworth. That duo were two of the most productive musicians during the 16-bit era, being responsible for soundtracks of such games as Puggsy and Wiz ‘n Liz. The Lost Vikings doesn’t quite reach the level of the last aforementioned game, but the tunes fit well here. The funky piano song of the “Wacky World” stages is impossible not to dig. The sound effects, on the other hand, are very half-assed and uninteresting. They are much better and lively in the SNES version.
The concept of The Lost Vikings is unique – everybody is good at something, so use it to accomplish things together. More developers should think about that when they make their characters. The vikings chat between each levels, and later in the game you get to know their personalities quite well compared to many RPGs, which very often proclaim their deep story telling. These two features, together with the puzzle-solving, multi-player mode, and six-button controller support (it is actually seven with the mode button) makes The Lost Vikings a very original and enjoyable game you will have fun with for hours.
There is always a great feel to finding the solution to what your brain has been troubled about for the last quarter, and it is even better when you actually accomplish the goal. But let us not forget the flaws. The presentation doesn’t impress for a game that was released so late in the Genesis’ life span. It can easily frustrate you later on and that is even worse when playing with friends. With the pluses and minuses together we have a regular seven-pointer in our hands. Getting this or another version won’t matter much, but here you have five extra levels. Just make sure to play them and every other with a seven-button pad.
SCORE: 7 out of 10