Ah, nostalgia! Be it that old cartoon, a favorite toy or a comic book from days gone by, isn’t it great, when out of the blue, the memories come flooding back, and you’ve no choice but to exclaim ”Holy Crap! Remember…?”
Simply put, there’s nothing like The Lost Vikings on the market right now. This game tells the tale of three Viking warriors kidnapped by the evil alien Tomator and their harrowing adventures as they try to make their way home. It is amazing and wholly unique in the realm of puzzle/platform games. Released in 1992 on every console of its era (I played mostly on the SNES and PC), gameplay was built around getting all three Vikings to the end of the level. Players could switch between them at any time and each had unique abilities.
Erik the Swift was the fastest, so fast that he could ram his helmet and shatter walls to clear a path. He was also the only Viking that could jump. Olaf the Stout was the slowest (and most awesome). His shield provided defense for the team and allowed him to glide safely across large gaps or down deep drops that would kill the others. His shield could also be used as a platform to bridge gaps or to get Erik to higher places. Lastly, Baleog the Fierce had the most offensive capability. He had both a sword and a bow and arrow. That means he could defeat enemies and trigger switches, even at a distance. The levels were designed so that every Viking can make it to the end, but to get there, the player had to figure out the best way to use each character’s unique abilities to clear a path for his brothers in arms.
The timing on some of the solutions was pretty crazy. Olaf runs off a ledge and glides. Swtich to Erik, who then runs off and lands on top of his shield, riding it to safety. Then switch to Baleog, positioned at an opening farther down the shaft. He can’t jump, or he’ll die. But he can wait for his partners to float down and shoot an arrow at the button across the way that opens a the floor for a few seconds, allowing them to fall through safely and continue to work the level until he himself can get safe passage. That… is… awesome.
The character designs are fantastic and the graphics were equally impressive. Each Viking had a unique walk cycle that matched their personality. My favorite bit was when Olaf would periodically reach down to pull his pants up as they slid down his enormous Viking butt. That’s just a taste of the genuine funny stuff in this game. At the start of each level, there are short scenes of dialogue where the Vikings would rip on one another, the absurdity of the level they found themselves in or any number of things. It was meta before meta was cool.
There was a sequel that brought in two new characters (a wolf and a dragon) and gave the Vikings cybernetic upgrades. It was a fine piece of video game in and of itself, but there’s something magical about the original. The games were made by Blizzard, so while there hasn’t been an official Lost Vikings game since 1997, they’ve made cameo appearances and been referenced in other Blizzard games since then. They feature prominently in the Uldaman zone in World of Warcraft and in a quest in the Cataclysm expansion. Most recently, they’re referenced in StarCraft II. If you click on the Viking unit multiple times (and this is a trick you can do with several units in many Blizzard games with different results), he’ll reference the Lost Vikings by name and set his coordinates to Norse by Norsewest, the subtitle of the 32-bit port of The Lost Vikings 2.
It’s cliché to say things like “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore,” but it’s completely true. For the most part, puzzle games don’t get major console releases. Instead, they’re download-only through X-Box Live or PSN. And even then, they’re straight puzzle games. There’s nothing quite like this glorious puzzle/platform hybrid, now or at the time of its release, really. The Lost Vikings stands alone as a gem of video gaming with no true successor or imitator, and that is an extreme rarity.