Do you find yourself looking fondly back at the “old days” of gaming? Do you sometimes wish there were no health bars, and death came more swiftly to noobs? Do you ask yourself: “Who needs HD, when we could have stunning 16-bit pixel art?” If so, then your prayers to Odin have been answered with Volgarr the Viking – an old-school, heavily challenging, tremendously fun action-platformer. And it’s completely free this month on Games with Gold.
The titular Volgarr is a beard-sporting, sword-swinging, spear-throwing badass with a penchant for killing undead and cutting huge bosses down to size. You start off with a helmet and a shield, which can block projectiles – but take a direct hit, and you lose your protection. One more hit, and you’re dead. So, you can’t just go in guns (or swords) blazing; you’ve got to pick your battles, lure out the easy enemies, and use the environment to your advantage. Learning enemy movement and attack patterns helps, but so does discovering secret areas and power-ups. Volgarr the Viking is as much about discovery as it is about chopping baddies into julienned slices.
And there’s more than just combat to contend with. Clever level design is part and parcel of Volgarr the Viking’s gameplay, so you’ll want to suss out alternate pathways to give yourself an advantage when you can. Boss fights, too, require you to think: Some bosses are impossible to beat without clever use of your spears or, more often, your brain. Moreover, platforming puzzles abound in Volgarr the Viking, so traversing a level is about more than just holding the stick to the right – timing, memorization, and yes, trial and error play their parts, so get ready for a powerful sense of victory when you finally get through a tough area. After all, that’s what old-school gaming is all about: that elusive sense of “I did it!” when you take down a tough run. That’s where Volgarr the Viking really shines.
It helps that Volgarr the Viking also looks and sounds fantastic, with a pixel-perfect recreation of the graphics of the 1990s, along with a pulse-pumping soundtrack and classic sound effects. The controls, too, are tight and responsive, which is critical for a game where perfect timing is absolutely necessary.
But make no mistake… challenge is front and center in Volgarr the Viking. Snappy controls will help you, but there’s no way to save your game at all, so every time you start the game, you have to make a new run at it. That means that Volgarr the Viking requires an iterative approach to gameplay: each time you play, you get a little further, then take a break, and start over, until you’ve mastered the game completely. It’s a decidedly old-school approach to games that fans of classic platformers will definitely appreciate.
So, are you ready for a journey back to the old days, when men were men, and there were no helpful social media sites to get you through the hard parts of the game you’re playing? Volgarr the Viking will take you there, and you won’t have to pay a dime to download it as part of Games with Gold in November. Happy slashing!
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