Today’s title was my very first introduction to the company known these days as Blizzard. The Lost Vikings is a childhood favourite of mine that I have played on so many different consoles, and now the best versions of it have been rereleased as a part of the Blizzard Arcade Collection. This one contains the SNES version with better quality visuals and audio, and the Genesis version with five extra stages, multiplayer for up to three people, and a couple of unique tracks. However, Blizzard also added in a definitive edition, which combines the best of these two versions (except for the tracks in the Genesis version), and it truly lives up to its name!
Cracking up jokes
Erik the Swift, Baleog the Fierce, and Olaf the Stout are three vikings living in a Scandinavian forest with their families where they enjoy their simple and peaceful lives together. One night, however, the trio gets kidnapped by an alien ship out of nowhere. Confused as to what just happened and why, our heroes set out to escape this ship and get back home safely. This game deals with vikings being taken by aliens and travelling through time, making it very much a 90s style of comedy that is endearing. The Lost Vikings does not take itself seriously at all, and I love it for that.
Throughout this adventure, you will be presented with funny dialogues upon entering a new world and at the end of every stage, with even some jokes breaking the fourth wall. The Genesis port also has cute cutscenes which showcase new concepts you will come across in humorous ways, and all are well preserved in the definitive edition. This is further enhanced by the cute and memorable protagonists, and while the extra NPCs only appear for a second, they add some extra charm to the different settings. Be it talking about constructions that are “viking smashers” or how they are always being watched, it is impressive how entertaining this journey is from its dialogues alone.
Story Score: 8/10
Vikings are more than just practical
As an interesting take on the genre, The Lost Vikings is a puzzle platformer where you play all the stages in a linear fashion. The goal of each is to get the trio to the finish line, which you do by changing between controlling each of them and use their unique skills for getting through the levels together. Erik can run fast, jump far distances, and headbutt to destroy enemies and objects. Meanwhile, Baleog has a sword for close combat, and a bow and arrow for distant attacks. Finally, Olaf is able to use his shield to deflect anything and put it above his head for gliding around.
All of these abilities are easy to remember due to the simple setups, how easy it is to distinct one character from another, and how these moves are tied to one of the two action buttons. Furthermore, the characters can also carry items they find throughout the stages, but have a max limitation of four units they can hold each. There is a solid variety of these to discover, such as food for regaining health, shields for being able to take one extra hit, bombs for blowing things up, and more. Since these items will be gone upon entering the next level, they feel like they are made for the area you are in and you can even trade between the vikings, which is a nice touch.
This concept of specified abilities for each character is always fantastically utilised in every single stage, as each makes sure to use all of the vikings’ skills. You might have to use Baleog to shoot arrows at bricks while Olaf is gliding downwards, have Erik jump on top of Olaf’s shield in order to leap further, and so on, providing wonderful ways to use the characters’ abilities together. Sometimes, the levels will even break up the party in order to give them each their own time to shine where you must take both their advantages and disadvantages into consideration. Changing between them is also easily done with two buttons dedicated to do so forward and back, making sure you are always in control.
Because of this amazing setup and attention to details, every single stage becomes memorable by their designs alone. It should also be said that this is a challenging game, and while you have three health units, you can easily die by acid, spikes, fiends attacking you relentlessly, and even by falling from great heights, just to name a few examples. This might make you use a combination of Olaf’s shield and Baleog’s sword quite often for careful approaches, but the game never focuses on combat specifically. Although, the enemies are diverse and aggressive enough to be intriguing, such as spitting snails or jumping Egyptians attacking with spears, making the fights simple and fun. I also like that some enemies are only weak to the sword, making it more tense to attack them.
However, if any of the trio dies or gets stuck with no way to reach the end goal, you will have to give up and restart the stage, as you need all three to reach the finish line in order to progress to the next level. Rushing through will only get you punished for not paying attention, and I love that this title clearly shows who’s fault that is. Luckily, none of the stages are too long to get through, making any reset a minor inconvenience and walking with each of the trio takes no time. There is even the option for three players co-op where you can change who the camera focuses on, which is a nice implementation by the developers.
The Lost Vikings is also fantastic at introducing new concepts, such as traps, helium to make you float, bounce pads, and more, giving you a lot of variety to the platforming and puzzles. With 42 stages containing diverse setups that uses each of the viking’s capabilities, there are a lot of quality details within this project. All versions come with four digit passwords for easy access, except for the GBA version which includes a save feature instead. While lasting anywhere between 2-4 hours depending on your skills, this is a wonderfully entertaining platformer that tests how sharp your mind is.
Gameplay Score: 9/10
Something that always hit me whenever starting a game from the 90s, is how colourful they can be and The Lost Vikings is no exception. Using just about every possible colour with its cartoony art style gives it a charm that is easy to smile at. Be it Prehistoria with dinosaurs, Wacky World with candies and bizarre creatures or The Great Factory with robots and different machines, every location is brimming with diverse and unique creations that area simply engaging to take in. Blizzard even went the extra mile with the definitive edition by adding in cool borders around that represent each new world, which is just a beautiful detail.
I especially admire how strong our heroes’ designs are by never going too abstract with their looks and still making them recognisable characters that have visual appeals in their simplicity. Each of them also comes with multiple animations to give them strong personalities, be it the plentiful of different ways they bite the dust, whenever idling or through their actions, these vikings are memorable by their visual flairs alone.
This further enhances how much fun the team clearly had when making this game about time travelling vikings, especially with how detailed the pixel art is. Everything has a gorgeous creativity to them that is strengthened further by the varied theming, and I am mesmerised by how the visuals shines even today. On top of it all, this title uses just about every cutscene to showcase visually how the game works, while providing a good chuckle. That is simply an amazing accomplishment in itself.
The soundtrack is just as excellent, containing diverse beats that fit every location each. Be it the techno rock on the alien ship, the Egyptian theme with a heavy focus on drums or the cute and upbeat tune in the candy world, everything comes together to add to this charming universe. This holds especially true when all of the songs evolve with strong rhythms and highlighted notes, and while I do wish some of the Genesis tracks were in the definitive edition due to how great they are, it is a minor nitpick.
Presentation Score: 9/10
I miss this kind of creative masterpiece. The Lost Vikings hits all the right notes for me, providing a lighthearted adventure that is not afraid of being silly, while offering excellent gameplay through fantastic level designs that take the limitations of our heroes’ abilities into consideration. Combine this with an endearing and imaginative presentation, and it is not hard to see why this is probably one of the best 16-bit platformers ever. There is a reason for why I have so many copies of it.