America - Front
America - Back
By Chinh Tran 13th Sep 2015 | 5,259 views
Back in 2013, Zoink released Stick it to the Man, a quirky and unique puzzler with a surreal sense of humour, which went on to see a degree of success across various platforms. Although Zoink could easily have followed the same formula that brought it past success, the company instead chose to go another path with Zombie Vikings. Even though both of these games have a lot in common in terms of visual style and comedy, their similarities are only surface deep. Zombie Vikings is a fun cooperative brawler that stands out thanks to its witty, satirical humour and art direction, but a few technical issues do hamper the experience.
In Zombie Vikings, Odin’s only good eye has been stolen by his rebellious son Loki and he summons four Vikings from the dead to retrieve it: Gunborg, Seagurd, Hedgy, and Caw-kaa. Through this introduction, Zoink shows the type of humour and satire players can expect and the crudeness doesn’t let up.
The story follows four Zombie Vikings as they hack their way through Zoink’s twisted, and often hilarious, vision of Viking mythology, all while trying to make peace with their past lives. Zach Weinersmith's writing is sharp, silly, and sometimes nonsensical. Everything from Shakespeare’s Hamlet to Soccer to Instagram is mocked. Although most of the jokes are genuinely funny, some do fall flat and not everyone will appreciate this type of comedy. Fans of Stick it to the Man will know roughly what to expect in this respect.
What Zombie Vikings doesn’t share with Zoink’s previous effort is the gameplay. Instead, it follows in the footsteps of brawlers like Castle Crashers and classics such as Golden Axe, except it features its own brand of insane cooperative action. Up to four players, through local coop or online multiplayer, can choose from four different characters (a fifth is unlocked later on), which all have their own unique move sets and special abilities. My favourite is Hedgy who is quick and does a spin attack which he charges up by holding down the attack button. He also has a cool special ability where he throws out exploding skeletons depending on how long the ability button is held down for. You could opt to play alone, but Zombie Vikings was definitely made to be played with others.
Playing cooperatively in Zombie Vikings is not only more fun, but gives you certain advantages over playing alone. You can throw one another at enemies or to get to hard to reach secrets. You can also revive one another or use a fallen friend’s head in battle as they spew vomit at enemies. All of this combines to create a fun and imaginative experience, but it does get repetitive by the time you reach the end.
Zoink tries to break up the repetitiveness by including some unique levels. For example, players will need to run from a giant worm in one level and dodge a giant “Fish Turd Cannon” in another. Levels also have side-quests that can be completed which unlock weapons as rewards. Some boss encounters are also quite unique and it's fun to come up with strategies to defeat them. Finally, an Arena Mode allows players to fight against one another. However, despite these features, for the most part you'll simply be moving from left to right, killing everything in your path.
To help in your journey, you can buy and equip swords and runes with earned gold. There are a wide variety of weapons and each gives different benefits upon use. Some are pretty common weapons, but the more creative ones prove genuinely fun to use. For example, there’s a “Cat on a Stick” that scratches your enemies as you use it. Players who appreciate Zoink’s brand of humour and creativity will have an enjoyable time experimenting with the different weapon and rune combinations.
Zombie Vikings’ art style is also filled with the unique brand of hilarity that Zoink is known for. Characters are cardboard cut-out cartoons, much like they were in Stick it to the Man. The wide varieties of environments are colourful and grotesque at the same time, and the synthesis of cartoonish visuals and rude art direction works quite well in the strange and twisted world of Zombie Vikings, further reinforcing the humorous style of the game.
Zombie Vikings, however, does suffer from some technical issues that are not so humorous. There are framerate issues in some of the more chaotic battles, and on certain levels you may get stuck and be forced to restart the level. The online experience, though improving, is not flawless either. Zoink is working to fix these relatively small issues - and they will likely succeed in due time - but these flaws cannot be overlooked at present.
Overall, Zombie Vikings succeeds as a fun and witty story-based cooperative brawler. The whole package is filled with humorous jokes and references, although some of these do miss their mark. The brilliantly grotesque visual design along with the winding and often ridiculous story creates a unique and memorable experience, and although there are some technical issues, Zombie Vikings’ vast array of unique weapons and different playable characters combines to create an enjoyable old-school romp through a twisted Viking epic.