If you’ve played Streets of Rage, Castle Crashers or Zombie Vikings, you’ll know what to expect from Viking Squad. It’s that simple, side-scrolling beat ’em up gameplay with a lot of loot and a basic upgrade system. Viking Squad is a good game. A fine game. It knows what it is and sticks to it, with little-to-no change throughout the five main combat levels. What it lacks when stood next to its comparable predecessors is a strong sense of style. Nevertheless, it does its job well enough: it’s fun, easily accessible and built for co-operative play. For more, read our full Viking Squad review.

Look and Feel

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My viking sails in on a cool dragon-boat. What does YOURS do? ….the same? Oh. Well. Okay.then.

Slick Entertainment deliver a fine cartoon viking adventure. It’s colourful and performs well with its 2D art style, but it lacks personality. The main character vikings are arguably better designed than, say, the Castle Crasher heroes, but they don’t feel distinct to me. I’ll likely always remember my little orange knight, but I can’t imagine remembering these vikings in a month or so. They leave no lasting impression.

It’s a shame, because the game performs very well. I’ve had no crashes. The transitions from level to level are smooth. Character animations are well-crafted, especially the special attacks from the player character. Not to mention the later bosses being fairly memorable. I loved the  On a technical level, it’s hard to fault, but when a game doesn’t stamp out an identity in its sound, art or anything in-between, it’s difficult to explain without playing it for yourself.

The game is presented without much of a story. Essentially you’re chasing after a mischievous green demon and its stolen gems. There’s no text, which is fine, but it doesn’t do much to deliver a narrative through the visuals either. The entire game is just your viking buddy going through the traditional, heroic motions.

Gameplay

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Top left: Health bar (red), Rune Power (blue sign inside concrete square). Mid-combat with some demon dudes!

Viking Squad’s gameplay treads familiar beat ’em up territory: take control of one of four Vikings and traverse a 2D environment from left to right, tackling enemies, obstacles and bosses along the way. Perhaps the one distinct difference is the solid lane style. Rather than a wholly free-roaming space, there are lanes that the player and enemies can move up and down between. This lane style does help Viking Squad stand out from the likes of its predecessors, but not by a whole lot, and it’s not necessarily better. It can sometimes feel restricting in comparison.

Each viking has their own light, heavy, combination and special attacks but they all impact the game so similarly that it really doesn’t matter who you choose to be. This keeps the playing field balanced for co-operative play, but there’s some tweaks to each viking that suit certain play styles. For instance, the Blue Viking is armed with a sword and shield and it’s clear he’s the default choice. He has a basic combination attack and seems to have more health than the other vikings. He wields frost abilities for his heavy and special attacks, freezing enemies in place for a brief time. He’s the Ryu of Viking Squad.

My choice was the orange/red viking. Dual-wielding axes seem to provide a faster attack rate and damage output, his charge heavy attack tears through enemies when upgraded plus wielding the element of fire is a personal draw for me. In all honesty, it’s hard to tell if these differences are factual or merely in the eye of the beholder, but the feel of the orange Viking’s abilities suited me more than the blue.

Progression via Loot

There are two types of currency in Viking Squad: gold coins and treasure. Gold coins allow for the purchase of health potions, keys to locked areas or chests as well as upgrading the aforementioned potions. Treasure will let you upgrade your viking’s three main stats or purchase a new armour or weapon piece, providing you’ve found that piece in the field.

Each viking has a Health, Rune Power and Strength statistic to level up. Health increases life points, Rune Power increase heavy attack uses as well as damage output and Strength increases general attack power. Both Strength and Rune Power upgrades provide new combination attacks after a few upgrades. The biggest issue with this system is, after the initial few unlocks, there’s nothing special waiting for you at the maximum stat. I half expected an expanded combination attack or an endless combo, but I maxed out strength and it just gave me the generic extra damage output. Still, I enjoyed turning in my treasure for upgrades. It kept the grind meaningful.

Carry The Goods

Though most of the treasure you claim will drop from enemies, chests or bosses, carrying distinct items through a level will provide even more. What’s more though, there’s usually a character in the level seeking the trinket, indicated by their thought bubble. By giving the treasure to, say, a cool Polar Bear, they’ll take you to a treasure-filled secret area. These little secrets add a bit of spice to the otherwise paint-by-numbers experience.

Finding weapons and armour in the field will unlock them for purchase back in town. They can offer various stat boosts as well as an aesthetic change, and each character type has a different style. Though I still feel the game lacks a stand-out art style, these touches help to add a bit of personality to our hulking heroes.

When Bears, Bombs and Zombies Attack

The enemy types are fairly similar throughout the game outside of boss fights. There’s a standard attacker, a long range charger, a thrower of explosives and the expected heavy enemy that’s less susceptible to your interrupting attacks. Most enemies are just simple reskins of their previous aesthetic. Polar bears become zombie demons and so on. Other than the annoying bats that are fairly hard to hit in mid-air, the enemies A.I is somewhat repetitive.

That’s not to say the game has stupid A.I. I was surprised by how multiple enemies would attempt to flank you, but it can go one of two ways: the enemies will take advantage of your focus on one enemy by flanking, or they’ll line up to get destroyed one by one.

Bosses are the most interesting design-wise but they’re far too simple when you’ve figured out their pattern. Not to mention how ridiculously easy they become during the online co-op mode. Still, those negatives aside, fighting the Kraken and having to hide behind seashells from its wave attack is just one of the memorable boss fight moments. Despite their eventual ease, they’re the highlight of the gameplay and worth reaching for the experience of it.

Everything’s More Fun with a Viking Buddy!

Like most beat ’em ups, Viking Squad is a heap load more fun with friends. A maximum of three players feels like an oddly limiting choice, given the four character types, but couch and online co-op modes are available to play through the entire campaign. I jumped in on a public game online and helped a random person out in their fight against the Yeti boss. It was quick and painless getting in, allowing me to bring my chosen character over complete with progress and weapons. Additionally, dead characters can be revived during battle, whereas you’re sent back to the hub town during solo play. Friends really are great, aren’t they?

I completed Viking Squad within a couple of days of inconsistent play, so it’s fair to say there’s about 4-5 hours of a standard campaign in here. Following that, there’s a boss rush mode and a hard mode for the campaign to run through, as well as four characters to upgrade fully and couch/online co-op. There’s enough here to justify its place on your console for sure.

Overall

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Orange Vikez whips out the special attack: a barrage of flame attacks against the enemy.

Viking Squad isn’t the best of the beat ’em ups available to you, but it’s the latest in a long line and it’s consistent with its chosen style. It’s best played with friends, or at least online with others, but a single player run isn’t so bad either. Beating up bears, zombies, yetis and a Kraken can get repetitive but upgrading the four heroes is enjoyable enough that there’s replay value there for those that love the gameplay. I just doesn’t have the same charm as the games that came before it. Nevertheless, it’s a solid experience that people shouldn’t sleep on for some fun with friends.

About Viking Squad:
Review Format: PS4
PEGI: 7+

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