Welcome to the second of three reviews for the Blizzard Arcade Collection. For those unfamiliar with the new Blizzard Arcade Collection, the short version is that the good folks over at Blizzard decided to package some of their classic titles into one bundle. Three titles were included in the release; Rock N Roll Racking, The Lost Vikings, and BlackThorne.
With Rock N Roll Racing having crossed the finish line in our review last week, it’s time to head back to the future with The Lost Viking. Just how well does an almost 30-year-old puzzle, platformer featuring three Vikings lost in space and time hold up? Grab that coffee, kick back and find out in our review of The Lost Vikings for PC, provided for review by the good folks over at Blizzard.
Simple In Premise Only
The premise of this classic is simple; three Vikings awake on a spaceship, stolen away from everything familiar. Working together they must use their various skills to navigate puzzles and enemies through a series of progressively complex side-scrolling levels. Interestingly, the premise is the simplest part of this delightful gem.
Remembering back to 1992 and the games I cherished then, I have to say that they were darker and much more straightforward than this classic. Batman Returns on SNES and Wolfenstein 3D on DOS (yes I am that old) were just a few of the titles I spent hours shooting and bataranging my way through. Then along comes a silly, cartoon story about three Vikings on the grand adventure of trying to get home. A far stretch from battling the Red Triangle Circle Gang or working my way out of Castle Wolfenstein.
Yet, despite its vastly different theming, both visually and narratively, The Lost Vikings has a charm and challenge that is still alive and well today. Its humor and self-awareness have translated well and are a welcome breath of fresh air from the gritty, competitive games many play today.
Some of the best features of The Lost Vikings, a now almost 30-year-old title, show the pedigree and core values that would go on to develop the Blizzard brand. The most prominent of these core values seen in Vikings definitely has to be innovation and uniqueness. Speaking of those features there are a few that are worth noting.
The game’s core mechanic, a three-swappable Character system that relied on all characters making it to the end of the level alive, was both inspired and offered a level of challenge and engagement that most titles lacked in 1992.
The fact that it’s executed so consistently well is just impressive. That’s really what makes The Lost Vikings so enjoyable to fire up after all these years. The puzzles, the platforming, and the synergy of the characters are timeless. Finishing a level with all three Vikings in tow is just as satisfying today as it was as a kid mashing buttons on my SNES.
Vikings also includes some interesting level design with hidden rooms, unique puzzles, and a variety of solutions for combat encounters. A sharable inventory system also opens up unique ways of solving problems in the game. With each character having a very specific set of skills, it forces you to think outside the box. This extra layer of depth is really what separates Vikings from other titles in the genre.
+1 To Quality of Life
Aside from all the original charm, Its addition to the Blizzard Arcade Collection brings with it some nice quality of life upgrades. Along with the original SNES and GEN versions of the game, you also get the Definitive Edition, which pulls together all the best stuff from both and meshes it into this new version.
Like Rock N Roll Racing, The Lost Vikings includes a new Save feature (also accessed from an overlay menu). Unlike Rock N Roll Racing, This save feature is available in all three versions of the game. Purists will want to ignore this feature and instead use the game’s original passcode system which works just as it did back in the day. For the rest of us, the ability to quickly load a save right before the moment you dropped Eric the Swift in a grinder ( why is a grinder even on a spaceship?) is a nice quality of life improvement.
As much as I loved my time in The Lost Vikings during my playthrough there were a couple of things that got in the way of the fun. For starters, I did notice some frame drops occasionally during my playthrough. It wasn’t frequent enough to cause major concern but it did happen enough to be annoying. The game never became unplayable by any means but it was noticeable and generally happened when all three Vikings were on the screen at the same time.
I can’t remember if this was an issue back in 1992 as it was almost 30 years ago, but it’s a bit frustrating now when playing. If it’s considered a part of the original experience that’s totally fine. It would have been nice, however, to have it removed for the Definitive Edition. If it wasn’t a feature then it’s a minor bug that I hope will be patched out soon.
The other minor inconvenience is that items picked up in the world have no tooltip or explanation attached to them. Some, like the red or gold key, are pretty self-explanatory. Others, the instant kill item, require wasting the first one in order to figure out what it is.
Again in the original 92 version of the game, extra text meant extra storage and storage was the most valuable commodity a programmer had back then. In today’s gaming landscape, and with the inclusion of a definitive Edition, it would have been nice to have that added in.