In this day and age of being constantly bombarded by games that try cloyingly to hand-hold the player and insult more advanced gamers' intelligence level with their constant nagging, one could expect today gamers to be spoiled. Then there are the real old school retro nuts who love 'Nintendo hard' games who complain about difficulty in modern games being too easy. Well hardcore gamers, your prayers have been answered, so I hope you aren't too spoiled to appreciate what Crazy Viking Studios has achieved with Völgarr the Viking. Oh, and the rest of you gamers can take it or leave it, because this game is a harsh taskmaster and will offer no quarter.
Völgarr the Viking is about a warrior who fought a large army, and ultimately succumbed to them. Odin was pleased with his fighting skills, so he gives Volgarr a new lease on life to crush Fafnir. And, of course, Volgarr once again does battle and bust some heads. Or cuts them off, etc. This is done all without a shred of armor, which actually makes him look more like a barbarian! The gameplay harkens back to the old arcade days when games like Rastan, Rygar, and Ghouls 'n Ghosts were the king in quarter munchers. This game will certainly feel much like that, as you will die. A lot. At least until you persevere and finally complete a level, which actually will feel like a grand accomplishment.
Rote memorization, and even some skill and quick reflexes, are necessary to get through a level. While you can take a few licks before going down, this requires that you pick up gear beforehand. Your gear function as a health bar of sorts. You start off with a weak wooden buckler, and can upgrade to a much stronger shield with can absorb an infinite number of projectiles or weak melee attacks. If you still continue to go through a level unscathed, you'll eventually get a helmet and warrior spirits. Of course all these chests are sometimes cleverly hidden. There are also Thor's hammers, which let you get one free hit and once activated, and will annihilated or damage the on screen-enemies in the vicinity. It's best you not get hit though, as it also lets you charge your throwing spears for extra hurting power, not to mention that it's pretty much the only way to collect warrior spirits.
You will need these warrior spirits to get at least Ending B, and most -- if not all of them -- to get ending A, which also involves playing the game from start to finish without quitting, and taking the alternate routes, which are harder version of the levels. Oh, and the real kicker is that if you die, have fun redoing the entire level over again! The levels are the checkpoints. At least you get an unlimited number of tries. And it does save your progress, although it does have a roundabout way of level selection. And that, of course, locks players out of Ending A, which is the true ending.
The game is fun regardless though, and has a fitting soundtrack and decent-looking 2D sprites that really give it that arcade look and feel. One big complaint I have, though, is that at the very least one concession they could have made was having a proper level select, for practice purposes. And while the high level of difficulty will ensure most people will give up on it, the persistent (or masochistic) will be rewarded. You have to hand it to the developer for their uncompromising vision, though. Too many people bend over backwards to appeal to target demographics, usually based on market data. So if you are really hardcore, be sure to check out this game.
The Good – The game is a fun action platformer with an uncompromising vision.
The Bad – Extremely high level of difficulty and lack of amenities will turn away less dedicated gamers.
The Ugly – The requirements for two of the endings are a bit too steep even for this game IMO.
SUMMARY: Völgarr the Viking is a fun action platforming game that harkens back to the days of old-school arcade games, although the game can be very difficult and unforgiving.
FINAL GRADE: 8.5 (out of ten)
Written by Eric Kelly of RPGrinders.
Xbox One review code provided by Kristofor Durrschmidt of Crazy Viking Studios