Lately it seems that a lot of lazy developers looking to add humor and quirkiness to their title just toss in some cartoon ninjas and call it a day. Usually this attempt fails, and hardcore ninja enthusiasts are left with dozens of ho-hum, unfunny games on their iDevices. Well, now it’s up to The Horrible Vikings to redeem the funny ninja meme, and to introduce funny Vikings as a bonus.
In The Horrible Vikings you play as a pair of Scandinavian pirates looking to get rich quick. As luck would have it, you stumble upon a cluster of islands inhabited by a group of wealthy ninjas. You have a catapult on your ship, so it’s no great leap of logic to realize that if you can launch yourself onto the islands, you’ll slam, bounce, and skid into some easy cash.
Haven’t you heard of cannons?
At the start of each level, you choose your trajectory and the amount of force to put on the catapult, then let it rip. Landing on ninjas, gold, or ham will make you bounce back into the air and continue your forward motion unfazed. Landing on open ground, on the other hand, results in more friction and lessens your forward motion. At any time, you can swipe down to butt-stomp, and then tilt to have a subtle aftertouch effect on your viking’s bounce.
Since you’ll spend most of the game in the air, it’s important to be aware of what treasures or enemies you’re soaring over. The game helps you out by putting arrows along the edge of the screen that point to items of interest. On each arrow is a thumbnail of what it’s pointing to, but the images are often too small to be useful.
Your health is tracked by a Zelda-like health bar made up of a string of hearts that depletes each time you touch (or get shot by) an enemy. You have unlimited lives, so you can launch yourself as many times as you like to scoop up random booty before going for the end treasure.
What adds depth to the game is the shop, where you can spend the gold you collect on permanent and temporary power-ups. For sale are additional heart containers, upgraded ships that grant you access to distant ninja islands, items that give you extra air during your flight, and potions that slow down time or refill your health mid-flight.
And despite having ninjas in it, this game really is funny. Each line of dialogue is goofy and grin-inducing, and there’s just the right amount of text, so it doesn’t feel like you’re slogging through War and Peace between levels.
The game’s biggest shortcoming is that you never feel like you have a great deal of control over your character. Sure, you set up your initial shot, but once you’re in the air the main control you have over your character is through power-ups, butt stomps and, to a much lesser extent, tilt controls. It often feels like much of your success or failure is out of your hands.
If you like the catapult-launching/cannon-shooting genre and are looking for a game with plenty of substance and style, then you’ll get a kick out of The Horrible Vikings.