Clever Beans is a small development team based in England, and the group’s story is a familiar one. The team is largely composed of people with backgrounds in larger game development who wanted to work in a more independent workplace, creating smaller, more focused experiences. When Vikings Attack! is one of those attempts. In it, players take part in what is essentially dodge ball, but with swarms of people acting as single units, and the environment becomes the ball. While fun in short bursts, especially when played with friends, this PSN title can easily become monotonous.
The premise of When Vikings Attack! is essentially the following: Vikings are back and marauding modern settings. Everyday citizens must defend their homes from the Viking hordes by gathering in groups and launching anything they can carry at the savages, who are in turn doing the same. This basic idea has promise, but it only works in certain situations.
When playing the campaign alone, it becomes extremely tedious. The amount of enemies thrown at players seems designed for co-op, but there just aren’t enough people playing online for this to happen regularly. Waiting upwards of twenty minutes would often only produce one other person, and this greatly hinders Vikings attempt at being a smaller, more bite-sized game. Later levels can last up to fifteen minutes, during which the same actions are performed ad-nauseam. Bosses are occasionally thrown into the mix, but again, the patterns are overly simple and just plain boring. Granted, when other players are introduced, a new level of chaos is injected into the game, which does make the campaign more enjoyable. But it doesn’t fix it completely.
Online versus modes are where Vikings really shines. During my experiences with the modes, of which there are three, finding others to play with was much easier. Some game types pit teams against each other, while others are a complete free-for-all, but in every instance it is much more engaging. Matches are hectic, usually don’t last longer than a minute or so, and as swiftly as one ends, another begins. This gameplay is great, and the chaotic nature of the game is so much more appealing when actual humans are behind your opponents.
The visual nature of Vikings seems to fit a handheld device moreso than an HD television. By design, the screen becomes extremely busy, and I found myself constantly moving closer and closer to the TV in an attempt to get a better handle on the bedlam. The eyes can only focus on so much screen-space at one time, and gameplay eventually becomes frustrating, especially in larger environments.
Despite all of this, Vikings does have a pleasant look. Everything has a stylized design, and the citizens which populate the defending hordes vary greatly. With each passing level in the campaign, new models are added by the dozen. And despite my problems with the levels mechanically, they vary greatly and, for the most part, possess their own identity. Musically, Vikings is nothing special, but it does blend with the visuals. It melds well with the bright and lighthearted look, providing a family-friendly and up-beat experience overall.
At its core, When Vikings Attack! is a neat idea. But the game can quickly become boring, especially when played solo. It may sound rough, but the harsh reality of multiplayer games like this is, after a few weeks, one can’t depend on there being other players online. And without others, the enjoyment found here is hamstrung. One thing to keep in mind is that Vikings is following suit with many other PSN titles, and when you purchase it you receive both the PS3 and Vita versions. So if you own a Vita, and are looking for a quick and easy romp, at $9.99, Vikings is a pretty good deal. But, the way online communities come and go so fast with new releases nowadays, you might want to make sure you have friends to play with first.
When Vikings Attack was developed by Clever Beans and published by SCEA. A PSN copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.