By: Quinn Potter
The setup for Volgarr the Viking is that this is a classic arcade game, pixilated in the style of Donkey Kong, but with intriguing twists and challenges. If you’re an old-school gamer who learned to play by slipping quarters into a machine at the local mini-mart, this might be your thing.
The controls are well-placed and responsive. Players can re-map the controls if they find a layout that suits them better. All the Viking basics are here – going forward, backwards, thrusting with a sword, throwing a spear, jumping and spinning.
The graphics deliver just as promised. The pixels of an older style arcade game come through very clearly. The backdrop is entertaining. There are vines, caves, totem poles, waterfalls and an intriguing assortment of villains to fight. The background isn’t pixilated like the playing field, which makes for a nice contrast. The forest of trees comes across as layers of sinister shadows and the clouds are soft and white, so the foreground pops with color.
Although it’s a battle-based game, the pixels tilt the blood and violence more toward game than reality, which means younger gamers can watch or play with little concern about imagery.
For the first five minutes of battle in one game area, the music consists of some tribal drumming, the low horns of feature film “impending drama” music, and an odd oboe wail. The effect is mildly entertaining but slightly repetitive.
Stay in the same area to fight, however, and you get a little pay-off with a dramatic sweep of orchestral drama (full brass section, kettle drums) to intensify the moment. Maybe this means you are doomed, but it’s still fun to hear the change. The drumming, horns, and oboe circle back around rather quickly, though, and stay with you through the whole level.
Green and blue lizard-men, snakes, bees, a huge venomous plant and an oversized spider thwart Volgarr’s progress across the course. Different enemies require different forms of defense, combat and timing. If you take Volgarr down to the hidden cavern and open the chest, there may be a wooden shield or a helmet.
The iron shield, your default protection, gives you a super-spear attack when you collect it and continues to let you leverage this attack as long as you have it. These spears go through enemies, so they are very useful.
If you forego strategy and choose to hack your way forward with the vengeful wrath of a true Viking, Volgarr will navigate the first level fairly efficiently. This doesn’t mean the game isn’t challenging, it just means that playing aggressively pays off. Use your spear to create a step for Volgarr as he jumps up to different levels and faces off against his enemies. As you defeat enemies, you’ll collect coins for future rewards.
If you mastered any side-scroll game platform somewhere in your misspent youth, Volgarr the Viking will be an entertaining stroll down memory lane. If this type of game play is new to you, you might find yourself frustrated and cranky at the end of a long afternoon of being stuck on the early levels.