Volgarr the Viking review for PS Vita, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Crazy Viking Studios
Developer: Crazy Viking Studios
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

Confession time: I’m bad at Volgarr the Viking. Like, horrifically terrible, to the point that I barely made it past the first level. On some level, it feels wrong to have completed so little of a game before passing judgement, but considering how lousy I am, it’s quite conceivable that we could be into 2018 before I make any notable headway here. As such, I’ll take my chances on reviewing it now, and assume that, a few levels in, it doesn’t suddenly transform from 2D platformer to, like, dating sim or something.

I’ll also say two things in my defense.

First off, the fact I’m so terrible at Volgarr the Viking is by design. The game’s creators set out to make a quasi-impossible platformer in the vein of Ghosts ‘n Goblins, and by and large, they succeeded. They’ve crammed monsters and environmental hazards into every square pixel of Volgarr’s world, and they make you work to earn every inch you move forward. There’s no rushing headlong into battle here; rather, it’s a matter of entering a new section of the map, dying almost immediately, and then hoping you learned enough from your first death to try and get the tiniest bit further. In other words, constant death is a feature of the game, not a bug.

However — and this is the second part of my defense — not only is Volgarr the Viking tough by design, it’s also tough because of its design. See, Volgarr does a lot of cool and gory things involving swords, spears, and other impressive weapons, but one thing he does not do is jump in any remotely useful manner. Getting him to jump forward is a constant struggle, which is kind of a big deal considering the number of times you need to make relatively precise jumps at important moments. I’ll take my share of the credit/blame for sucking at Volgarr the Viking, but I want to make it clear that it’s not 100% on me.

A lot of it is me, though, and I can totally see why others might love this game, even if the countless deaths drove home the point that this may not be the game for me. For one thing, as difficult as Volgarr the Viking may be, it seldom seems unfair or impossible. Sure, the jumps can be a little aggravating, but in general, when I died it was because I was overwhelmed by monsters, or because arrows came flying out of seemingly nowhere, or because of one of the many environmental hazards that populate this game.

Which leads me to another point in the Volgarr the Viking’s favour: death — both your own and your enemies’ — may come from a variety of causes, but all of them lead to satisfyingly bloody ends. Whether it’s the titular viking exploding in a burst of bones and guts or one of his many enemies, it all adds up to good, gory fun.

As I said up top, it’s entirely possible that the game goes off in some wildly different direction once you get beyond the first level. Alternatively, I could see the constant death and dismemberment getting old after awhile, particularly if (like me) you’re the type who prefers easy success over constant struggle. On the whole, though, I have to think that what you see with Volgarr the Viking is exactly what you get — and if you’re the type who looks at ultra-hard platformers and sees something you like, then you’ll really like what you get here.

Grade: B+