Genre: Run ‘n Gun Developer: Sega Ent. Publisher: Bally/Midway Released: 1984 Players:1
Vertically-scrolling run-‘n-gun arcade games weren’t very popular before SNK released Ikari Warriors, so most of the games in the genre are pretty obscure and pretty rare. That description about sums up Sega’s 1984 release of an obscure and nearly forgotten game called Mister Viking, where you control the aforementioned character who runs around throwing knives, swords, missiles, and bombs to destroy all kinds of wacky and bizarre enemies in an effort to destroy a sphinx-like statue at the end of each round.
The game plays pretty simple but has enough charm and creativity to hold its own. When I initially played the game, it took some getting used to the controls. They’re easy to learn and you can fire eight directions, but you have to be walking in the direction you want to fire. Once you let go of the joystick, Mister Viking will automatically fire upwards again. This makes the gameplay feel clumsy at first, but it’s quickly alleviated with a nothing more than a few minutes of play time. Mister Viking has a handful of special weapons at his disposal to help him through his adventure. He can hold one in each hand and they can each be fired once. Swords and spears can be thrown and will cut a swath through a row of enemies. A bomb can also be found that is awkward to throw but will blow up small buildings or a large group of enemies. Many times a bomb can be your “ace in the hole” if you can land it in the right spot. Some enemies sit atop walls or buildings out of reach of your regular attack, requiring you to line up a properly-timed attack from a special weapon to be killed. Until they’re eliminated the screen will not scroll forward.
Along the way, flying Viking longboats will drop more special weapons and certain houses hold point scoring items. Once you reach the end of each stage, you have to face off against a boss-like enemy. It is a sphinx that can only be killed by grabbing a special weapon and firing it only when the door is opened up. After it is defeated, the game tallies up your score and then starts at a harder stage. Each stage varies slightly but they always repeat. Like many games of the era, Mister Viking loops after a certain amount of stages and simply has you trying to go for high scores.
Mister Viking is graphically simple but has a fair amount of detail in each of the enemies. The game is colorful but still has a slightly murky and washed out look that’s rather basic and bland by 1984 standards. Audibly, the game is rather quirky sounding and with a lot of charm, but the audio gets repetitive after only fifteen or twenty minutes of gameplay. I do like the single musical theme that plays in the background but it does get rather loud and pitchy-sounding over time, and I would’ve turned it down if the arcade machine had an accessible volume knob.
Needless to say, Mister Viking is a decent game that is fun to play for a round or two but by the time I ran out of lives I didn’t feel like playing it again. I could, however, see myself giving it another try in the future. In this day and age, I just felt lucky to be able to try it out on a dedicated cabinet, as this is one of Sega’s rarest and most forgotten games of the 1980s. If you’re fortunate enough to find an original cabinet, then be sure to play a few rounds because, simple as it may be, there’s still fun to be had.
SCORE: 6 out of 10