When Vikings Attack is the ludic equivalent of a Ramones song: simplistic, repetitive, and irresistible. It has no desire but to do one thing very, very well. And if that’s ultimately its greatest failing, it’s also what makes it such fleetingly wonderful entertainment.
What happens when Vikings attack, it seems, is that subtlety disappears via the nearest window – along with just about everything else. Your job is to herd a group of citizens around farms, factories and shopping malls to repel the Norse intruders. You begin with a small handful, and wandering white-garbed characters are recruited simply by walking into them, sucked into your angry mob as if by osmosis. Then it’s time to start throwing things.
From park benches to road signs to cars, there’s plenty to launch at your aggressors, though the Vikings can use the same objects against you. A dash move allows you to quickly evade incoming projectiles, though you’ll have to watch out for the curiously rubbery posts and poles that deflect objects. The dash can also be used to catch airborne items, which can be rotated with the shoulder buttons: either slowly to solve a rare puzzle, as with one boss battle which requires you redirect laser bolts through a curved pipe, or quickly to send your chosen item spinning wildly towards its destination.
It’s every bit as messy as it sounds. Even when playing solo, arenas are cramped, and tactics rarely more sophisticated than picking up the nearest item, throwing it as quickly as possible and sprinting to safety. Any attempts to be clever tend to end in glorious failure, though a sneaky rebound that wipes out an entire group brings a brief moment of schadenfreude – arguably even more so when it’s a total fluke.
That joy is amplified in multiplayer, which is predictably chaotic and heartily silly. It’s well-implemented, too, allowing players to drop in and drop out with the minimum of fuss. Whichever mode you choose, it’s essentially a food fight in game form, the only subtleties a rocket that recruits others to your cause, and the Gold Rush mode which requires you finish off your opponent in five different ways to eventually triumph. Even the cooperative modes get competitive: you may well find yourself forced to deny that the collateral damage caused by that dumpster you carelessly tossed into the melee was deliberate.
After a while, fatigue naturally sets in; there’s little tangible difference between throwing a piano, an arcade cabinet and a sarcophagus, after all. But any time you’re ready to lose yourself to some head-down, three-chord fun, whether you’re playing on Vita or PS3, When Vikings Attack is waiting to show you a real cool time.