Jon Gracey's

Games That Rocked…Richard Soames’ World – #45: The Lost Vikings

In Amiga, GBA, Mega Drive, PC, SNES on July 26, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Today’s article by Richard Soames. Of The Beta Males! (and other stuff)

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Title: The Lost Vikings

Format: PC, SNES, Amiga, GBA, Mega Drive

Released: 1992

Lost Vikings Box Art

Family is a weird thing: a group of people obliged, mostly through a combination of genes or nuptials, to be in the same room as each other at least once a year and have a not-bad time. I found myself in such familial circumstances on many occasions along with my brother, Jamie, and my cousin, Rich, because our parents seemed to get on with each other more than was normal.

But while it’s easy for adults to feign interest in each other, children are far more opaque. How were we expected to make dinner conversation? And how were we supposed to entertain ourselves? Sure, Lego’s awesome, but sooner or later you’re going to tread on a brick and feel betrayed by everything you’ve ever known. The answer, of course, was MS DOS.

lemmings2

As soon as we’d asked to “get down” from the dinner table and be relieved of vacuous parentchat, the worlds of Theme Park, Lemmings, Rise of the Triad, Fuzzy’s Golf, Monkey Island and Cannon Fodder were all waiting for us to unlock them with a simple “cd..”. Lost at the dinner table, we all felt at home here. The only problem was that these were just one-player games and there were three of us. And even though you can usually work together, advising jumps and pointing out spikes, Prince of Persia is not the greatest spectator’s sport.

But one day, exploring the “dir”, we typed this in and found three similarly lost souls.

C:\> cd..
C:\> cd lostvik*
C:\> lostvikings

*At this point we would always joke that we couldn’t find our Vaporub. We were hilarious.

The Lost Vikings

The Lost Vikings was a beautifully simplistic platform game with a kind of logic-problem-solvy, puzzle-based element to each level, but the difference to most games like it was that not only did you get to control three protagonists, you had to. Every level was intentionally laid out so that Baleog The Fierce (above, left) had to shoot an arrow from distance, so that Erik the Swift (middle) had to jump a platform and head-butt a wall, so that Olaf the Stout (right) had to use his heavy duty shield as a parachute…obviously.

Without combining their skills, you could never get to the next level. Nor could you betray the age-old Norse code: never leave a Viking behind. Instead, start the level again after re-spawning from a lightning bolt as a flaming longboat sails past in the distance.

Lost Vikings Resurrection

And so it was that Rich the Swift, Jamie the Stout and Me the Fierce embarked on our epic quest through subterranean arenas with bitey dinosaurs and rolling Neanderthals, robotic futurelands with aliens that fired lasers from their eyes, Egypt and a nightmarish Candyland among many, many others. We got through a lot of longboats.

It was a three-way bromance, overcoming trials and tribulations, bickering about how best to get “Shieldy” to put his shield on his head to give “Jumpy” a boost up to the waterfall so that he could press the button which would allow “Swordy” to get through a door and slash one of those weird, psychedelic snails. Every level brought you closer to their distant homeland from whence they had been cruelly kidnapped by the malevolent emperor of the Croutonian Empire, Tomator, whose motivation I just had to check on Wikipedia. But plot didn’t matter to us. We were just along for the intergalactic, trans-dimensional ride! Also we were ten.

The game was not only great fun and really imaginatively designed (don’t forget we’re talking Vikings in space here!), but also benefited from its simple rules, meaning that no matter how unfamiliar this new mechanical, box factory world with its enormous magnets and crane operators is, you know you have three lives, you know each Viking has particular skills, and you know you’ve got to get to the Exit. Off you go.

Lost Vikings I Am A Viking

Yes you are.

It was also funny. Wry, self-aware comments after completing each level made you feel that these poor, addled Norsemen were genuinely as frustrated as you were by the infuriatingly placed teleportation zones and elusive keys. Their squabbling, point-scoring one-upmanship mirrored ours. Also, to the average child (and even now, I’m not ashamed to admit) it is hilarious that my brother’s character revealed a builder’s bum whenever he bent over at the top of a ladder. Brilliant.

I haven’t played The Lost Vikings since those glorious, sun-drenched summer afternoons that we all spent indoors but I still see my brother and my cousin a lot and we will often reminisce about those long hours spent trying to complete Colonization and a very generous demo we had of Flight of the Amazon Queen. But the conversation will always turn towards the fond memories of our Viking soul-brethren, the adventures we shared and laughing at the fact that we laughed at the word ‘lostvik’. We were hilarious.

Typing this in to my Command prompt today has revealed a sad sight:

Dos Image

The Lost Vikings are lost in a weird future-land once more. Lost forever, maybe, but it was not in vain. Thanks to them, my brother, my cousin and I will always be able to make conversation at the dinner table.

Rich

Richard is a writer/performer for sketch scamps The Beta Males. He also does loads of improv and is generally pretty ace. Get tickets to his two Edinburgh shows here (Superhero sketch comedy) and here! (feminist/noir/farce/comic play) Both will be excellent.

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