Publisher: Blizzard Classic Arcade
Developer: Mass Media
Release Date: March 30, 2003
Buy 'THE LOST VIKINGS': Game Boy Advance
Blizzard Entertainment was not always the game developing monolith that it is today, back in 1993 they were busy churning out quality third-party games for the PC, Macintosh, Super Nintendo, and Genesis platforms. One of those games came in the form of a platform/puzzle title called The Lost Vikings, wherein you’d control three different Vikings, using their unique abilities to overcome obstacles and progress through level after sidescrolling level. The Lost Vikings was cited as one of the most original puzzle games of its time, though saw only mediocre success in terms of sales. Luckily, that refreshingly unique puzzle game that never really got the respect it deserved is being re-released in handheld form on the Game Boy Advance, giving a whole new generation of gamers the chance to experience its charming gameplay and endearing cast – on the go, no less.
As the title suggests, The Lost Vikings is a game featuring three protagonists – Erik, Olaf, and Baleog – all of whom are, you guessed it, Vikings. The reason they are “lost” is because some wacky aliens abducted the hat-horned trio and dropped them off in the future where they are forced to make their way through numerous obstacle courses before reclaiming their freedom. Each Viking has their own unique ability that must be utilized in a number of different ways; Erik ‘The Swift’ is able to run and jump across pitfalls and can smash through certain walls. Olaf’s unique ability is his multi-purpose shield, which can be used to block enemy fire or, when tilted upwards, can be used as a platform so that Erik can reach higher areas, and it can also be used as a glider allowing Olaf to gently float down to the ground. Baleog’s strengths lie in his sword and bow, which are used to destroy enemies and activate faraway switches. In order to progress in The Lost Vikings you’ll need to make good use of each character’s abilities, sometimes utilizing two Viking’s abilities in tandem. It’s all very strategic and clever, but the answer is never so subtle as to keep you scratching your head for too long before the solution becomes clear.
The goal in each level is to reach the exit with all three characters, which is easier said than done. By tapping the L trigger button you’ll switch between characters on the fly, when a Viking is idle he will remain in the exact position that you left him in. This type of gameplay lends itself nicely to the evolving scenarios that you’ll find yourself in, which often require a certain degree of planning ahead. For example, in one stage you’ll need to place Olaf in front of an auto-firing enemy turret, blocking its blasts with his oversized shield so that Baleog can safely climb up a ladder that is located behind Olaf and dispose of the wandering enemy above, which in turn allows Erik to safely traverse that area and jump over the gap leading to the switch which activates an elevator, giving Baleog and Olaf a way to reach the exit. There are many obstacles outside of platforming tasks that you’ll come across, including varied enemies, power-ups, and special items like health-replenishing food and wall-destroying bombs. It is not hard to lose sight of your objective due to the assorted dynamics that are constantly introduced, but once you’ve been acclimated with the game’s sense of style and progression you’ll learn to enjoy the new objects and items thrown into the mix.
The differences with The Lost Vikings on GBA in contrast to its original 16-bit counterpart are minimal. Basically, it is the same game but with one minor modification; the GBA port utilizes a battery back-up save feature that, while convenient, prohibits the player from revisiting previous levels. There is no question that battery back-up is handy, but I’d almost prefer the traditional password method if it meant I could re-play particularly entertaining areas of the game. All told, there are 37 levels included on the cart, some better than others. The majority of the stages are solid brain-bending challenges, but there are some levels that can only be figured out after dying countless times. The most enjoyable ones aren’t so focused on trial-and-error, logical thinking and precision timing are the main gameplay elements that will endear you to this classic.
The visual presentation in The Lost Vikings is nearly identical to that of the SNES version released nearly ten years ago. As such, the graphics tend to look a little dated. This game, which looked fairly impressive back in the day, is merely passable on the GBA. Luckily, there is a lot of fun to be had with the game’s assortment of animations and humorous character reactions, despite The Lost Vikings’ overall drab color palette and simple backgrounds. It would be easy to argue that a visual overhaul should have taken place in the transition to the 32-bit handheld device but there is a certain sense of nostalgia that can only come with a pixel-perfect recreation of the original. The same functional yet minimalist approach taken with the graphics is also evident in the sound department. The tunes consist of quirky instrumentals that mesh nicely with the lighthearted action and adequately reflect the game’s somewhat off-kilter personalities. Sound effects are your run-of-the-mill third-generation 16-bit fare, replete with simplistic cartoony beeps and bleeps representing the on-screen action.
If you played The Lost Vikings already on one of the many platforms it was made available for in 1993 then there isn’t much incentive to revisit it on the GBA since it offers no new modes of play or bonus additions that weren’t found in the original. Had Blizzard incorporated a multiplayer component that allowed three people to link up and individually control a Viking, this game could have scored much higher, but the overall lack of additions beyond the obligatory battery back-up save function makes this game a suitable purchase only for the uninitiated.