Nowadays, when you want to play a video game with someone, you likely have to play online with them and forget same screen gameplay. This lost aspect of video games is making a comeback, and it is primarily coming from the indie sector. With a classic 2D side-scroller, you can create a game that is both engaging and fun. Viking Squad by Slick Entertainment aims to do just that.
Running on their own proprietary engine, Viking Squad hearkens back to 2008’s Castle Crashers. You and your friends embark on raids on nearby islands in order to gather as much loot as you can for your Viking brethren. Each level is procedurally generated, so you can pillage the coastlines and never see the same exact level twice.
The mechanics are easy enough. The “Square” button is a simple attack, but you can perform a more powerful critical attack by holding “Triangle” and releasing at the right time. After a while you get the timing down and you’re sending your enemies flying left and right. I played alongside two other attendees and one of the devs, Nick Waanders. One of the features that makes Viking Squad different than your typical “beat ’em ups” are the lanes. There are multiple lanes that you position your character within. You cannot hit anything outside of your lane, and in practice, this actually makes it easier to tell what is going on while playing. You’re not trying to diagonally position your character, when you have square them up anyway in order to connect on a hit, and with the lane system this forces you to do that anyway. Nick is the programmer on the game, and was very conscious about trying to make things easier to follow, as well as make the combat a little better than your traditional “beat ’em up” when he programmed the engine.
Each character also has a special attack. For instance, my character’s special allowed me to create floating health orbs my comrades could use to heal themselves. You also have a special critical attack, that if pulled off can do some great damage to your enemy. Using these attacks comes at a cost of your stamina, so you have to be careful before you line one of these attacks up not to waste the move.
The point of Viking Squad is to gather loot and defeat your enemies. Sometime in each level you will come across a giant sack of coins. It isn’t as simple as merely running over the bag to pick up the loot, rather you have to actually pick up the bag and carry it the rest of the way to your longboat. This adds another element to the game, and we quickly made one of our party members the official “loot bag donkey.” Sometimes you will come across obstacles that will require you to throw the loot to another player. Be careful, especially if you’re throwing it across water, as a mistimed toss could spell a lootless adventure thanks to the watery depths below.
All in all, Viking Squad proved to be a great take on a genre that needs some refreshing. While Castle Crashers is nice to play with friends, the randomly generated maps in Viking Squad should help keep the game from becoming stale. Hand-drawn visuals look beautiful with each hammer stroke, making Viking Squad not just a fun little game, but one you can look at for hours and not get tired. Look for more about Viking Squad in 2015 as it gears for release on PS4 and PC.