Known also as Norse by Norse West: The Return of Lost Vikings, The Lost Vikings 2 is a strange example of a sequel expanding upon the original’s concept and simultaneously killing the series. It is far from a terrible title, but a fascinating one that feels like a product made from awful marketing analyses depicting what is popular and sells well. Just to clarify; I will be mainly looking at the SNES version, as I cannot stand the visuals of the 2.5D versions that almost look like old and poor bluescreen technology.
Humour is subjective
The three viking heroes from the last game are returning home from a fishing trip, when they are suddenly captured by evil aliens once again and about to be taken away by a guard. Thankfully, the ship they are on starts malfunctioning and the trio takes out the armoured alien, while also stealing his equipment. Before the team can think about what they should do next, Olaf mistakes a lever with a “Do Not” sign above for being about donuts and pulls it, sending our protagonists to Transylvania in the year 1437 A.D.
There is a clear feeling of déjà vu here, since this is basically the same plot as the one from the previous game, with not much else to it. The Lost Vikings 2 tries to make up for its simple story with humour and personality, which was similarly done in the first title. Unfortunately, everything feels lost in this sequel. The humour is more stereotypical by containing shallow fat jokes and poor puns, with the characters you meet being all forgettable. That is, except for one annoying little prick of a kid who constantly appears throughout the adventure, coming off as a forced inclusion. Even when he ends up being relevant to the plot, this twist makes the story even worse.
Not everything is bad, as there are some decent events to this journey, like mixing a vampire wing for one from a fruit bat. The vikings can also be charming at times with their banters, but it is just a shame that this rarely happens through the underwhelming dialogues, and the two new playable characters and the rest of the NPCs do little to help. There is a ton of hit and miss humour here, and when the tone can be all over the place at the beginning and end part of every stage, this playthrough can sadly drag.
Story Score: 4/10
More abilities does not make things better
Following the footsteps of the first game, The Lost Vikings 2 is a puzzle platformer, but with some moderation to its setup. You still will be controlling three characters alternatively, with each coming with special moves. First up is Erik, who is the fastest of the trio and can jump, double jump, glide, swim under water, and headbutt. Meanwhile, Baleog uses his sword and stretchy arm for attacks, and can use the latter for swinging off hooks and grabbing items. Then we have Olaf who can use his shield to block attacks and hazards, as well as glide with it, shrink down in size, fart for bum bashing things under him or extending his glide, and catch fire when falling from high grounds.
Already, we can see that the vikings have severely expanded their movesets from the last title, but this is not all. There are even two more characters to control, and the game will always decide which three you can have with you in each stage. You will eventually meet the wolf boy Fang, who can run, jump, wall jump from one wall, and use his claws for attacks. Finally, we have Scorch the dragon, who can fly for a short while, glide, and shoot fireballs.
It is ridiculous to have so many abilities and characters, since with any puzzle platformer; it is interesting to see how far you can get with a limited moveset and use your logical thinking to progress. Here, all five characters have means to clear gaps easily, and it can make them all forgettable. Even worse, this excessive amount of moves comes at the cost of bland and expansive level design. Sure, some do take advantage of the heroes’ abilities, but far from enough to make anyone feel unique, as what you have to do is always blatant and straightforward.
Since there is no good flow to the gameplay either, this turns The Lost Vikings 2 into a stiff action platformer. I will give the game credit that it has a couple of levels that are engaging from clever pathways to make each unit shine on their own, but rarely makes you have to use their abilities to help each other directly for progressing through the stages. At least, all are short enough to play through, so should one of your heroes loose all of his three health orbs or not be able to reach the goal, restarting a level is no big deal. Yes, you need all three to reach the end of the stage in order to move on to the next one.
Although, I never got the idea of finding three items in each level and bringing them to the goal, as it adds nothing. Thankfully, it does not become tedious either from backtracking or blind searches, as the trinkets are easy to find, but this makes me question their inclusion even further. I do like that each character can still only hold four helpful items that are found in the levels like bombs, torches, health refilling foods, and so on. They are also gone upon entering the next stage, making them clearly to be used in the current level you are in. However, I found so many healing items that I had to constantly throw them away, which makes me wonder if this game was even properly tested.
I dislike being so harsh towards this title, as there are some good level designs here that use the characters abilities diversely and well. There is even some variety added in to spice up the adventure, like rope climbing. Unfortunately, there are also those that are simply underwhelming from their setups feeling almost like context-sensitive moments or the forced combat that is incredibly dull due to the lacklustre enemies and simple attacks from our protagonists. Although, being able to play co-op can help as it will make this adventure more fast-paced and the four letter passwords are easy to keep track of.
With 31 stages, this was a short and perfectly fine ride. There is still some magic kept thanks to the better level designs, but when none of the characters feel unique, it is hard to get engaged in how to proceed through them. Because of this, The Lost Vikings 2 becomes a stiff action game with little to speak of. It is sort of like power gaming that the developers tried to make work, and at least there is clear effort and some fun to be had.
Gameplay Score: 6/10
Cluttered and forgettable
I will give this title that it is quite colourful and it still has tons of cute animations for our heroes. Be it their idles, deaths or even how they leap from the ground, every motion adds a touch of personality to them all. Sadly, the newcomers look generic due to having only the characteristics of being a wolf and a dragon, and I cannot act like I am a fan of the new designs the vikings have gotten. There are so many odd things placed onto them, and since they even have the same colours on their armours, it makes their designs flavourless. Almost like a marketing tool to sell toys.
The levels do not help much either, with Transylvania and the medieval caves almost sharing the same colour schemes with little diversity to make things pop out. The later stages are better, but everything ends up looking stale due to the lack of diverse set pieces. To be more positive, the temples in the jungle are vibrant and I do like how the colours are highlighted nicely in the apocalyptic future. There are even some neat details to admire, like the pirate ships having beers as health refilling items or how the enemies fit in each world, such as the apes in the jungles and knights inside the medieval caves.
This could make the areas solid, but they lack any atmosphere thanks to how little there is to speak of them. Even the cutscenes between the worlds are bland with only the back of the main villain’s chair being shown. Although, it is cute that the developers managed to sneak in some clever references in the monitors around, like Pong and Rock n’ Roll Racing. I should also stress that the sprites are lovely made, and certainly look better than the unfinished clay models of the 2.5D versions.
However, the music is a strange setup of repetitive songs that are rather atmospheric than memorable, with them all being lacklustre. They are all fitting to each location, with the pirate theme containing whistling and chanting, Transylvania having organ and dark notes, and wood drums being used in the jungle. Sadly, they are hard to get attached to due to monotone structure and tone. This is one part where the 2.5D versions impress, as the soundtrack in those versions is upbeat and contains bizarre mixes of rock and electro, which are all brilliant, memorable, and actually fitting to each world due to having similar details like in the SNES version.
However the sound effects are obnoxiously loud in the 2.5D version, which at least the SNES version avoids by them being generic and forgettable. Even the excellent voice actors cannot help this, despite their fantastic directions and distinct tones that are over the top, silly, and entertaining. Although, I would not expect any less from a cast consisting of Tress MacNeille, Jeff Bennet, Kath Soucie, and Jim Cummings. I suppose you could say that the visuals are better in the SNES version, while the audio is the only meaningful upgrade in the 2.5D version, but both have strange middle grounds in terms of quality.
Presentation Score: 5/10
While not something to outright ignore, The Lost Vikings 2 just feels like a forced product. Characters have too many moves to make the stages engaging, the presentation is passable overall, and the story is filled with humour that can be mixed at best. I cannot deny that there is fun to be had with some of the levels being entertaining and there is clearly effort worth admiring here, but this title truly feels truly lost in its own upgrades. I can see why we never got a third entry.