We haven’t had an inaugural post in a while, have we? Here’s Flashback!, our new series (maybe) of articles on pretty old video games. Technically every game in this series will also be a GGYCPFF, assuming you’ve bought a computer since, like, 1997. But this one’s also about history, man. Starting us off is the The Lost Vikings, a game I knew about way back in the day thanks to Nintendo Power, but never actually played until last week. This is probably for the best: Jonah circa 1992 would have been crushed by a game like this.
In a schtick that’s become more popular lately, you control three characters with different sets of abilities. “Abilities” might be too generous, though, because each of the characters is seriously crippled compared to your average video game hero: Erik the Swift can jump (the other’s can’t), run faster than others, and headbutt certain objects and enemies; Baleog the Fierce can swing his sword and shoot arrows; Olaf the Stout has a shield which protects him (sometimes) and can be used to glide. Combined, they’re almost as powerful as Link after two dungeons of Link to the Past.
Your goal is to get past these deficiencies and guide your trio to the end of each level. Let me be clear: it’s not enough just to reach the exit with one or two characters. If anybody dies along the way, you’ll have to start the whole thing over. There are no checkpoints. There are many deathtraps. And even after you’ve figured out what you’re supposed to do, the later levels will take a good ten minutes of perfect play just to complete. In short, it’s exactly what Nintendo used to be. Aren’t you glad things have changed?
I am, sort of. But where Vikings is brutally demanding, it also teaches an interesting skill in second-guessing the level designer. Many of the puzzles will, like Varicella (I’ll write about that one eventually), require many plays through just to know what you’re up against, let alone how to beat it. A lot of the fun is in the forehead-smacking when a trap you had no way to expect sneaks up on you, and the chest-thumping when such is clairvoyantly dodged. And there are thirty-seven levels (in a row!), so you’ll have plenty of time to get acquainted with the devious internal logic of the designers.
Okay, good luck. I apologize in advance for the rolling cavemen.