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The Lost Vikings

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Released: 2003

Genre: Platformer

Format reviewed: Game Boy Advance

Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment

Developer: Blizzard Entertainment

Submitted by: Robert Frazer

The GBA version of The Lost Vikings is purist retro gaming. It is the very same game as originally produced by Blizzard’s first incarnation as Silicon & Synapse, with nary a bell or whistle attached, re-released under the “Blizzard Classic Arcade” label to satisfy gamers’ nostalgia on the one hand, and for Blizzard to monetarise its inactive back-catalogue on the other.

If anything, The Lost Vikings was degraded slightly, ‘thanks’ to the nonsensical decision to use a combination of trigger and action button-presses for both item usage and environmental interaction: an altogether clumsy method which highlights the advantages (and further face buttons!) of the DS successor-console. However, it’s possible to tolerate the irritant because the game itself is strong.

The game is a platformer which mixes the traditional running and jumping skill-tests with a degree of puzzle-solving as well. Olaf, Erik and Baleog – modern Blizzard fans will recognize them from their cameo in the “Uldaman” instance of World of Warcraft – are kidnapped by the alien Tomator as exhibits in his interstellar zoo. Bloody furious as only bellicose horn-helmeted Scandinavians can be, the trio conspire to escape, only for a deviating warp-portal to fling them on a wild time-travelling adventure as they struggle to find their way back to the fjords.

The plot is hardly a generational saga of terrible passions and Machiavellian intrigue, but it has plenty of character to elevate it above the usual humdrum videogame storyline: fun banter between the characters is a little reward at the end of each level; they even remark about déjà vu when you restart a level repeatedly, and you will – a lot! Indeed, The Lost Vikings adapts surprisingly well to handheld gaming – short lives lend themselves to bursts of play…

Each Viking has unique skills to complement those of his fellows, but the game doesn’t reward experimentation. Only one arrangement will carry you past a particular obstacle, and the method is often obvious – challenge comes from enacting it. Nonetheless, with dozens of varied levels it’s fun working it out, with enough content to occupy you for many hours.