Review: Zombie Vikings
Zombie Vikings is a side-scrolling action adventure platform game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. The Swedish developer Zoink originated from Klaus Lyngeled rather ambitiously quit his job at Shiny Entertainment in favour of creating his own studio which would enable him to work on his action adventure project called The Kore Gang on Wii that would eventually be released in August 2010 in Europe and November 2011 in the US. The development team is most known for the indie smash hit Stick it to the Man which released in 2013 on Vita and PS3 before a PS4 version was also released in 2014, but can Zombie Vikings equal or even surpass that of Stick it to the Man?
The story revolves around Odin’s good eye being stolen who then decides to retaliate by sending an army of Zombie Vikings to retrieve Odin’s lost eye and return it to him, while destroying anyone who gets in their way. The story is written by Zach Weiner who is most notable for the award-winning Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal web comics having won the Web Cartoonists’ Choice Awards for Outstanding Single Panel Comic in 2006 and 2007.
The story unfolds over the course of 25 levels in story mode, while sidequests involve secondary mission objectives such as finding a pink bow for Princess Kitty and finding a missing cat which earns rewards including new weapons.
The character design has some variation to it as there are four characters comprising of a variety of quirky zombies including Seagurd, Hedgy, Gunborg and Caw-Kaa as well as a zombified version of the lead character from Psychonauts re-named as Raz-ombie as a free additional character. Enemy design comes in the form of cats, worms and creatures reminiscent of goblins in all shapes and sizes with some enemies even arming themselves in mechanical suits that prevent them from receiving damage from your attacks and firing projectile weaponry, although there is still a battle with the enemy wearing the mechanised suit even after defeating the protective outer layer.
The environment design consists of multiple layers for alternative sideways paths to be able to explore from outside of the normal path to find and participate in sidequests with environments including foliage, rocks, waterfalls, skies ranging from picturesque to dark stormy clouds and more besides.
The majority of the combat is purely melee combat, although every character has their own unique attacks and weapons such as Seagurd’s Sword, Hedgy’s Club, Gunborg’s Axe-Sword and Caw-Kaa’s Sword as well as Raz-ombie’s The Twin Taped Terror. There are also a variety of weapons every character can utilise including Thrashblarg, Ulgar, Catfood, Shock and Awe, Replica Thor’s Hammer and much more besides with a range of damage, health and speed attributes with further special attributes such as low health providing a speed bonus, bonus damage for attacking an enemy from behind, sprint attacks stunning enemies and double dive attacks inflicting increased damage to enemies. The majority of weapons will need to be purchased via in-game currency earned from barrels, treasure chests and defeating enemies. After they have been unlocked, the cost gradually increases depending upon the statistics of each attribute and the contents of the special attributes. Runes also apply to the same rule which makes it really important to gather as much in-game currency as possible as runes possess special powers such as varying quantities of increased health, speed and more besides. A pig companion called Oink becomes your main ally during single player story mode with multiple capabilities such as utilising his horn to pick up smaller enemies or even treasure chests, penguins, chickens and other objects, while a cannon will later be unlocked to strap onto Oink’s back to launch him at your enemies. There are even further methods to attack enemies including four zombies combining together to form a giant zombie and the ability to pick up an enemy, weapon or ally and throw it at enemies.
The game is as humorous in story telling and direction as Stick it to the Man with such instances as a witch arguing with her former friends that they have to leave because “She is trying to get with a hot guy”, shop owners calling your character a “Cheapass zombie” if you leave their store without purchasing anything, enemy cats yelling that they will ruin your character like a new carpet, a cat posing that he has nine lives only to surrender when realising he has already lost eight of those nine lives and many more hilarious moments in dialogue and combat.
There are multiple downloadable content packs available comprising of two new playable characters. Ray, the lead character from Stick it to the Man has unique moves such as slapping, swinging and sticking with his ghost arm. Another new playable character called Frostbjorn’s primary attack is spewing ice. Each new character costs £2.49 which is good value given that they have their own attacks rather than only looking different from other characters. The retail release is titled Zombie Vikings: Ragnarok Edition which includes all of the content from the digital release as well as the Frostbjorn and Raybjorn characters and a digital artbook.
The performance during remote play is excellent with the graphics, audio and general performance possessing the same level of quality as the PS4 version, while the control scheme required almost no optimisation other than tapping the touch pad to produce a player indicator being re-mapped to the touch screen, while the rest of the controls remain exactly the same as the PS4 version. Therefore, Zombie Vikings possesses a remote play experience that naturally feels comfortable and will no doubt keep players satisfied until a Vita version is hopefully released, especially given that Zoink is the developer of one of the greatest indie experiences to ever grace Vita in the form of Stick it to the Man.
The controls are well mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing square to attack or holding square to perform a charged attack; pressing O to perform a throw attack or holding O to perform a charged throw attack; pressing triangle to perform your chosen character’s unique attack; pressing X to jump; pressing L1 or R1 to attempt to shield against incoming attacks; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move your character; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to roll to the left or right to evade incoming attacks; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Tapping the touch pad produces a player indicator with a specific colour matching to the colour of the light bar for each of the four players, although the light bar remains a tone of light green throughout single player most likely for the purpose of representing the colour of the zombies, alongside the DualShock 4 controller vibrating when charging an attack or when your character is on the receiving end of an enemy attack.
Graphically, Zombie Vikings has an incredible art style reminiscent of Zoink’s previous game Stick it to the Man with all of the character animations performing smoothly, while characters and all of the surrounding environments in both the foreground and background looking absolutely amazing.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, players menu, game mode menu, options menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. The background of the menu screens consists of various characters manoeuvring along the sea in a small boat, while the title logo is stylishly presented to the top right of the main menu.
There are exceptional and genuinely humorous performances from throughout the entire voice-over cast with every voice-over artist performing multiple roles. Many will be known from Zoink’s previous game Stick it to the Man such as Ty Konzak who voices over a dozen roles in Zombie Vikings having voiced the lead character Ray Doewood, alongside a collective of amazing talent throughout the cast who really bring their respective characters to life with real personalities. Sound effects include jumping, rolling, collecting items such as health and gold coins, attacking enemies, enemies attacking your character in return and ambience such as waterfalls. Music comprises mostly of jazz instrumentation during gameplay in a similar style to that of Stick it to the Man with a particularly humorous song when pausing the game consisting of such lyrics as “Ooh, it’s time for a pause, give me a pause right now, I need a pause…Ladies and gentlemen there is a pause”. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which is somewhat disappointing given that Zoink’s previous game Stick it to the Man includes the most fun, unique and entertaining utilisation of the DualShock 4 speaker to date as the lead character Ray could read other character’s minds whose thoughts would be projected via the speaker, therefore it would have been amazing to hear the extremely talented voice-over cast have their dialogue projected through the speaker in the same manner.
The trophy list includes 34 trophies with 26 bronze trophies, 12 silver trophies, 5 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies mostly tend to include combat related tasks which could happen at any moment such as the Catch bronze trophy for killing an enemy with their own projectile by picking it up and throwing it at the enemy; the We Call This Pong bronze trophy for hitting a frozen enemy back and forth ten times; and the Fowl Play bronze trophy for defeating an enemy by throwing a chicken at them. Harder trophies includes Master at Arms and Runemaster gold trophies for purchasing all of the weapons and runes from the character selection screen or the shop as they will require a lot of in-game currency to be earned and collected respectively and A Helping Hand gold trophy for completing all sidequests. Certain trophies require two to four players or controllers to complete such as the Perks of Being a Zombie bronze trophy for being revived by another player a total of 50 times. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 20 to 30 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are no difficulty levels, although there is a gradual increase in difficulty curve as more enemies will attack your chosen character within the same wave of enemies after you have progressed through a few levels in story mode and harder enemies will start to be introduced that take more hits before they are defeated.
Versus Arena provides local competitive multiplayer for 2 to 4 players throughout six maps with the purpose of being the final remaining character after the other player or players have been defeated in a battle, although rather surprisingly Versus Arena is not available in online multiplayer. Players can utilise all of the unlocked weapons and runes with each player only having a single life; usually resulting in a quickly determined winner. One particular standout in Versus Arena is Socker in which the objective is purely to be the first side to score five times in the opposition’s goal mouth resulting in a highly entertaining variation from the five combat oriented maps.
Story mode is available in local and online co-operative multiplayer, although local co-op is limited to being on the same screen as at no point does the screen split to allow players freedom of movement, while with a positive change for co-op coming in the form of players being able to revive each other instead of being sent back to the most recent checkpoint. Rather surprisingly, there is no method of searching for available online co-op games as you must invite players into a game you are hosting manually by entering a PSN ID or selecting a player from your friends list or a friend inviting you to their game.
There are no online leaderboards which could have covered a speed run time throughout each level of the story mode and an overall time for completing every level in both single player story mode and local or online co-operative multiplayer in story mode, while there would be potential for other fun online leaderboards such as the amount of wins, losses, goals scored and goals conceded during Socker in the Versus Arena mode.
The replayability stems from a variety of areas including five playable characters, over 40 unlockable weapons and runes, a hilarious story and multiplayer components such as local competitive multiplayer in the form of the Versus Arena mode as well as local and online co-operative multiplayer for the entire story mode which will collectively bring players back for more for quite some time.
Overall, Zombie Vikings produces a humorous adventure in the same narrative style as Zoink’s smash hit Stick it to the Man, therefore Zombie Vikings is just as highly recommended as Stick it to the Man for players who appreciate action, adventure and platform genres, especially when fused with comedy.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Hilarious story
- Superb voice-over acting provides real personality to every character
- Local competitive multiplayer
- Local and online co-operative multiplayer
What I Dislike:
- No competitive online multiplayer
- Local and online co-operative multiplayer is restricted to being within the same screen