Zombie Vikings trades heavily on its character, and what's here shows a lot of heart and creativity – but it's mired by repetition, which means that while this brawler is charming enough to capture your attention, it's unlikely to hold onto it for long.
A big part of its appeal is its aesthetic. Much like developer Zoink Games' previous title, Stick it to the Man, the foray sports a fetching cardboard cut-out visual identity that's easy to fall in love with. Characters are beautifully drawn with purposely janky movements, while layered backgrounds add an attractive faux depth to proceedings. It's all very charming and amusing, which fits the theme spectacularly.
Indeed, the game lays the humour on thick, with pop references aplenty and a very silly tone. The narrative sees you take control of one of four undead Vikings, raised from the dead by Odin to retrieve his stolen eye which the trickster Loki has made off with. The Gods of Asgard are all too drunk to aid in this quest, so it's up to you to fight hilarious bosses and their hordes of underlings across a wide variety of locations in search of this eye.
It plays as a standard beat-'em-up. Moving from left to right, you and up to three friends take on waves of enemies as you progress further towards eventual boss encounters, beating your foes down with simple attacks and a unique special move for each character. It's all rather traditional fare, though there's certainly some creative flare in the combination attacks and special moves. Sadly, exploding muscles and ink-spitting squids only delay the repetition, rather than outright prevent it.
As with any games of this ilk, though, sharing the experience can help to alleviate the monotony, and the jokes seem to become funnier when others are in on them. To the title's credit, it does attempt to mix things up here or there, with set-pieces seeing you running away from giants and more. It has a hint of a Rayman title coursing through its veins, but just doesn't deliver enough of these surprises to fully realise its potential.
This untapped promise is even more evident in character progression – or, more accurately, its lack thereof. Runes to modify weapons and stats can be bought with in-game currency or earned by beating levels, adding health buffs, regeneration, or even abilities like double jump – but there's not enough of them to create interesting combinations. You can also purchase or earn new weapons, but these prove more of an aesthetic change rather than adding anything meaningful to the combat.
Zombie Vikings is a charmingly designed beat-'em-up, but it's ultimately a fairly shallow one. It's fine for a multiplayer laugh, and even single player has its moments thanks to the humorous plot, but it's only likely to amuse you once, before you leave it on your hard drive waiting to rot.