Volgarr the Viking
Volgarr the Viking will look immediately familiar with any one who played Rastan on the arcades. It’s a hard as nails platform slash em up with very little mercy for the player: as the game’s own manual proudly exclaims, “Prepare to die… a lot”. Thankfully, it doesn’t raid your senses with gimmicky trial and error learning, but it does pillage your nerves by demanding precision and reflexes. In fact, Volgarr has apparently been built with the “speedrun community” in mind. It’s an awesome game, but this should help decide pretty quickly whether it’s the game for you or not.
Unfortunately, I’m in the ‘not’ camp, although I admire Volgarr nonetheless. Although I played the hell out of Rastan as a kid (and wasted many, many 20c pieces), and despite my literal viking ancestry, Volgarr is a bit too tough for me. Unfortunately, it looks like my viking level hovers closer to Hagar the Horrible, or maybe, hopefully, at least Erik the Viking level. Volgarr may be tough, but its washboard abs are highly polished, making for a quality modern retro game, and it certainly deserves mention here for those Valhalla-bound readers who can handle their nerves being raided and pillaged a few times by never ending respawning enemies.
Volgarr certainly follows the Rastan format closely to begin with. I mean like really certainly. You are dropped in a cliff area, with lizardmen constantly spawning from all directions, and nearby cave with a powerup guarded by flying enemies. A tired and true approach to most issues in life, a quick slash of your sword will dispatch your enemies as you’d expect, however, Volgarr goes further and expands upon this with a few new tricks up its bare chested sleeve.
First and foremost is the spear. Volgarr isn’t limited to melee but has a unlimited supply of throwable spears. The spears can stick to walls, doubling as a platform, opening up a few more tactics and approaches. Volgarr also spent a bit more time at the slaying academy than old Rastan and has a bigger range of moves. He can duck and roll away from attacks, and has a neat spin attack that doubles as an extra jump, and once you have a shield you can use it to block attacks. Now.. you’d think all this would make the game significantly easier alone, but it doesn’t. Firstly, the spear has a delay between shots, and causes you to also pause to throw it (and also bump forward a bit, making cliff edges dangerous places for javelin practice), so you can’t liberally machinegun fire it into the unknown. Secondly, the enemies come in thick and fast, usually much more than the spear alone could handle. Volgarr may be well prepared, but the game knows this, and is purposefully designed around the new abilities and more importantly, their limitations, to keep the challenge strong.
Rastan had a variety of equipment to collect scattered throughout the levels, such as a flaming sword or ax with longer reach. Volgarr similarly works with this kind of concept, but steps sideways into Ghosts’n’Goblins/Ghouls’n’Ghosts territory. Powerups are contained in chests scattered throughout the levels. You start with a wooden shield, which can protect you from a single attack before being destroyed. However, manage to keep the shield, and the next chest will have a metal shield instead, which can now block ranged attacks indefinitely, if you play your cards right, as well as boosting the spear attack. Next comes a lovely horned helmet which boosts your attack speed, and can also take a hit before being destroyed before the shield gets it, effectively giving you two extra hits. Finally, the coup de grace is a flaming sword because of course it is. The flaming sword significantly enhances the jumping spin attack (and mashing those annoying spiders with it is so much fun). This pattern continues until you get a full set of equipment. If you manage to get a chest at this point you are rewarded with a medal – another nod to the challenge player focus of the game.
The graphics are great and pretty much on par with what you’d expect from a commercial modern retro game that elects to use pixel art. Like the gameplay, Volgarr takes the traditional pixelated sprite art and expands upon it, with higher resolution, more detail, more varied use of colours, rich detailed environments. It strikes a decent balance between simplicity and visual attraction, and if you like pixel art then you’ll like Volgarr.
As mentioned before Volgarr is built to be tough and demanding. It’s built from the ground up with speedruns and challenge runs in mind, which tells you what kind of game it is. As it is not a free game, it’s not something you want to plonk cash down on just to check out (although depending on your budget and level of curiosity, as the game is relatively cheap). This sets its audience to a certain demographic quite clearly, which in some ways is a shame, as I’m sure more people such as myself would love to delve deeper into the world.
Posted on August 5, 2015, in Arcade, Platformer and tagged $5-10, 1 Player, Crazy Viking Studios (developer), Hack and slash, Influence: Ghouls'n'Ghosts, Influence: Rastan, nordic mythology, Windows. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.