September 16, 2013 7:00 AM | Anthony Swinnich
Völgarr the Viking is an unapologetic love letter to a time in gaming when a game would brutally knock your teeth out and you'd thank it while asking for more. There isn't a truly comfortable moment to be had in Völgarr. Every step you take is designed to maximize the danger you're in. It's a mean, ruthless bully of a game. So while I say this to you with black eyes and a broken nose, just know that it's a hell of a lot of fun.
There is little room for error if a player wants to see Crazy Viking Studios' game through to the end. It's set up in your standard action-platformer stage-by-stage way, where you're always moving forward and toward a boss battle. The enemies you meet along the way aren't complicated to dispatch, but they usually require you to do it in a specific way if you don't want to take damage. Sometimes you'll have to duck to avoid attacks. Other times you may have to wait for their weak spot to open up. There isn't much more than one trick an enemy, but its the way they combine with the level design that makes them dangerous.
Jumping over a waterfall may be made more dangerous when an enemy unexpectedly comes from off screen to meet you mid-jump. In the second part of the first level, the temple walls fire arrows at you while you try to combat foes. Fishmen with long tridents may explode up out of the water and into your path. The game puts a large emphasis on learning and memorizing the level. The first time of each instance is surprising and most times you will absorb a hit, but chances are you'll remember it on your next dozen playthroughs. Enemy and hazard placement never changes. It becomes, then, more about execution than twitch reaction. Much like the games that inspired it.
The rigid swordplay of Rastan, complete with slow-moving long-sword baseball swings and jumping downthrusts. Every attack must be performed with purpose. The double-jump is ripped straight out of Super Ghouls'n Ghosts, where your arc is absolutely locked once you leave the ground, and then if you use your second leap to change direction. Each jump must be calculated. Your limitations are obvious, and your success is dependent upon mastering them. It does help that treasure chests containing shields, helmets and fire swords are abundant. And if you should become good enough to complete a level without getting hit, you'll access a special, harder variant level instead of the next, normal level.
So go, march to a thousand deaths in quest of reaching the end of the game. Just know that Völgarr the Viking isn't going to make your journey easy. You have much to learn if you want to survive and knowledge comes at the cost of blood. This Windows game, however, comes at a price of $10 on Steam until September 20, when its 17 percent discount wears off and its $12 price is restored.
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