Since the first video game I played in the '80s, one thing has always come naturally – beating people up to win. Nothing super complicated, keep moving to the right and mashing a few buttons to beat up the baddies. It's a great formula, some of the most beloved games in history have used including X-Men Arcade, Castle Crashers, and even the infamous Battletoads.
Zombie Vikings follows in those footsteps rather nicely, making sure to hit all the key notes. The story is simple but fun. Loki has stolen Odin's one good eye, and you have been risen from the dead to retrieve it. There are multiple characters, weapons and runes (special abilities) to unlock as you go. The developer, Zoink Games, has also added online and local multiplayer for up to four people.
Here's what I liked:
Selectables — One of the easiest ways to keep me entertained when I play a video game is choices. I love picking things and making a character my own. Zombie Vikings has tons of customization options from which to choose. I'll start with the fact that there are eight characters, each with their own unique attacks and specials moves. As you progress, you regularly unlock weapons and runes, that have unique abilities like life steal or double jump. This allows you to build a character that either is made well for your style of play or that will work best for the level.
Art and design — I love the look of this game! Each character feels unique and fun, always appearing bright and vivid even when they are acting dark and dreary. The art style is almost nostalgic, reminding me of a children's puppet show made with paper cutouts glued on Popsicle sticks. The levels are designed well, managing to stay original and fun from level to level, which is imperative for a game that has 27 levels.
Multiplayer — Zombie Vikings is fun and easy enough to get through by yourself, but the co-op multiplayer is where this game shines. There's a joyous feeling when jumping into a wacky beat'em up where everything turns from delightful disarray to pure anarchy in a matter of seconds. One moment we are working together to slay the boss and next thing I know someone has snatched me up and thrown me between them and an enemy. Things like this create memorable and funny moments, time and time again. You can join up locally, online with existing friends or a combo of the two if that's what you need to do to get a full game.
Here's what I didn't like
Stiff controls — One of the most annoying things about the game is that there isn't much diagonal movement, which proves to be an annoying issue. Though, honestly, you do get used to it after awhile. However, that doesn't change the fact that it still sucks and there is no logical reason for why it has to be that way. You shouldn't get hit or not be able to land where you want to because it feels practically impossible to move at an angle.
Map behavior — The way the map is designed, coupled with the speed of the movement across it and the aforementioned stiff controls, and this thing gets annoying. It doesn't seem to understand that continue means pick up where you left off, so you start at stage one every time. On top of this, the map has a front side and a back side, but you can't just flip it over, you have to go through all the levels till you get to the end of the road and the map flips itself over. This, fortunately, is not a deal breaker, just something that makes you annoyed for a few seconds every time you start again.
Multiplayer — Why am I bashing multiplayer if I already praised it you ask? It's simple – there is no matchmaking of any sort. You either play with you friends at your house or with people who are on your Xbox friend's list. There is no ability to fire up a lobby and wait for three random people to join your match. Now onto arena mode. Why can't I play with more than four people? Four player games fly by too quickly and force you to see too many loading screens and not enough action. This mode is rather drab and has been done by tons of other games and done better at that. I wish instead of making the arena, they had focused their time on creating an online matchmaking system.
After 20 plus hours of gameplay, I am still enjoying slicing and dicing my way through the levels to reach 100%. That may not seem like much of an endorsement to you, but for a dad of three who works 60 hours a week, that's saying more than you may know. My time is precious to me, and when I can find a game that stays fun and enjoyable and helps me bring both my kids and friends closer, I'm all onboard. The few downfalls Zombie Vikings has are in no way enough to hold this game back from being a jewel amongst indie games.
Score: Buy It
Zombie Vikings was developed and published by Zoink Games. It was released for the Xbox One on February 21, 2017, for $11.99. A copy of this game was provided for review purposes