We Need Another The Lost Vikings Game
The Lost Vikings is a 1992 Super Nintendo game by Blizzard. Yes, that Blizzard. It is an action/puzzle game where you control three Norsemen through caves and spaceships. The challenge comes from applying each of the three Vikings’ unique abilities to the situation you find yourself in. The Lost Vikings and its sequel have a strong challenge level that rewards creative thinking. This combined with a unique sense of humor found within the dialogue sets the stage for an excellent pair of games that Blizzard ought to revisit.
The plot: a spaceship abducts three Vikings in the Dark Ages; hilarity ensues. If you give more than cursory attention to this game’s storyline, you’re doing it wrong. What makes it enjoyable is the tight level design that demands ingenuity from the player and the tools the three Vikings possess. Erik the Swift can run, jump, and bash things with his helmeted head; Baelog the Fierce can kill stuff close and far as well as use his arrows to strike switches that the others can’t reach; Olaf the Stout can block enemy movements and attacks and can somehow glide using his shield. (It’s a testament to this game’s greatness that I can remember their names and abilities despite not having played the game in years.)
So when you play a level, you can position Olaf in front of a monster horde to keep them at bay while Baelog attacks them with his bow and Erik runs the other direction in search of a switch to open the path. You the player are pressing the SNES’s L and R buttons (who am I kidding, you’re playing this on an emulator if anything) to promptly switch between the three, using their skills at the right times and places, and with proper timing. Despite the cramped corridors and poky movement speeds of two of your characters, The Lost Vikings is quite a fast-paced and tense experience.
Mercifully, you get infinite continues and access to a password system, and the jokes the Vikings make after a few of your screwups keeps the mood light, like The Adventures of Lolo. This is a challenging game but not a repressively brutal one; it’s the bear porridge that’s just right.
The Lost Vikings’ final level poses a fascinating solution: [blackout]not through fighting the alien overlord Tomator, but by sharing. Not in some dumb cutscene, but through the game mechanics. It’s cooler than it sounds.[/blackout] This is emblematic of everything I love about the game. When you hear “puzzle game” you typically think of Tetris and Bejeweled clones, but The Lost Vikings presents honestly puzzling puzzles whose solutions aren’t immediately apparent.
There was a 1997 sequel that added two more characters as well as enhancements to the existing Vikings. It too is worth your time, and a fine example of what a sequel should be. Some people didn’t like Baelog the Fierce’s new Bionic Commando arm, but it just increased the number of options available and the potential complexity of the puzzles.
Trine, MDK, and any other game that has you switch between characters to solve problems all owe a lot to The Lost Vikings and how it set the standard for action/puzzle games that require the player to invest a lot of thought. I’d love to see more stuff like it, but Blizzard isn’t game. I don’t blame them for wanting to do anything but focus on their established money-makers, but I can still hold irrational childish resentment towards them. And I’m totally going to.
A dream sequel could have either the same Vikings in new situations (basically an add-on level pack) or it could introduce all sorts of new characters, items, and other fun stuff. I’m not picky in that regard. I’m surprised that there aren’t ROM hacks of new The Lost Vikings levels around the internet already; it could be a lot more fun than the quadrillionth fan remake of Super Mario World or a wacky meme-filled interpretation of Final Fantasy.
So will Blizzard make a sequel themselves? World of Warcraft is years past its prime yet Blizzard is still making Brobdingnagian piles of cash off of it, not to mention the financial success and critical acclaim of Diablo III and Starcraft II. But am I wrong in assuming they could probably take $300,000 from their money tree and assign a few employees to make a sequel? It’s not a dichotomy; they can work on their big-name flagship titles as well as the small ones where the secret ingredient is love.
No, it doesn’t have the name-brand recognition of their other series, but another The Lost Vikings game could be truly great. Get on it, Blizzard; restore my faith in you. Start making good games again, even if they’re just a little sideshow to throw a bone to those who remember your previous greatness.