There's a pitfall to the design goal of simplicity: repetition. Many accessible titles tend to eschew this obstacle through minimalistic charm and a compelling set of mechanics. But while When Vikings Attack certainly boasts these values, and makes good use of them, its incessant repetition fails to abate. Indeed, the deeper you get into the downloadable title, the more the overarching sense of familiarity tends to pull the experience down.
This is primarily due to the genre. When Vikings Attack is a Power Stone-esque multiplayer brawler, complete with themed arenas, powers-ups, destruction and mindless fun. It's certainly a recipe for anarchy, and this dynamic, highly competitive multiplayer environment is exhilarating. However, beyond the first stage, the experience begins to become fairly predictable. New elements are periodically introduced in order to shake things up, but only do so in minor ways. It becomes a slog to play through, both alone and in multiplayer.
The solo experience has you battling Viking invaders through 15 stages, which guide you through a variety of locations, including a serene farm house and a museum. On each stage you have three objectives that grant you stars for achieving a certain score, winning in a specific time, and limiting casualties. They're challenging objectives that successfully encourage you to replay in the beginning, but can lead to frustration. And with each stage being fairly lengthy, your will to keep playing will dwindle quite quickly.
However, this takes nothing away from the charm of When Vikings Attack. The preposterous concept of Vikings invading 70s Britain is humorous and is further accentuated through a set of wonderful , era appropriate public service announcement videos, which are unlocked throughout the campaign. Meanwhile, the cel-shaded art direction and cartoon aesthetic sell the whimsical tone as your gang of vigilantes gather together as a mob, pick up the objects strewn across the environment, and fling them at the Vikings as per your command. As your group is hit by stray objects, new civilians creep in from the sides to slowly replenish you ranks. This is mirrored by your Viking foes until they eventually succumb, forfeiting the area of that stage and allowing you to push on through it – a bit like Streets of Rage but with more beards. At the end of each level a boss character or two awaits you.
When Vikings Attack's power-ups come in the form of civilians with abilities. Having a person join your group with a strength boost, for example, will allow you to lift heavier objects with less members in your mob. Meanwhile, the civilian with the fast running ability will reward your group with a faster pace. Additionally, new objects are implemented into each stage, and gradually weapons – such as bombs – are introduced that add a bit more danger and mayhem to battles. One bomb in particular will switch Vikings to your side. With multiple mobs running around and changing sides, chucking bombs and other objects around the arena, things can get pretty hectic on Britain's conflicted streets.
Multiplayer adds to the chaos. Playing the title's Quest mode with another person can help to alleviate the frustration attached to the aforementioned star challenges, and the three competitive multiplayer modes are great fun in casual sessions. You have the option of the usual Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes in Last Man Standing and Vikings vs. Vigilantes. Meanwhile, Gold Rush finds you fighting over medals – the first team to collect five of which wins.
The chaotic fighting against other players is certainly where When Vikings Attack shines. It's reminiscent of Bomberman, but with less obstacles between you and your foe. The competitive arenas – based on the solo stages – provide a great backdrop for the carnage and add additional environmental hazards to the fray, such as moving traffic. It can't help but get repetitive, though.
Repelling Viking invaders alongside your neighbours – figuratively in solo play or literally in multiplayer – taps into an old-school nostalgia that's enjoyable in short bursts. The game's lack of ideas make it frustrating in long stretches, though, and although the cross-platform functionality between PS3 and Vita is neat, solo players might want to give this game a miss.