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Vikings: An Archer's Journey review - Canabalt meets Angry Birds

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Vikings: An Archer's Journey review - Canabalt meets Angry Birds

If there are two things mobile has been historically good at - endless running and twanging projectiles.

For proof of this, see two of the App Store's earliest hits: Canabalt and Angry Birds.

Vikings: An Archer's Journey endeavours to merge these two gameplay styles, wrapping it all up in a beautiful package with lush, storybook-esque art.

The way it does this is simple. Your character, apparently on a quest to retrieve a wolf, runs from left to right on a 2D plane.

You tap the right side of the screen to jump, dragging and releasing on the left to aim and fire arrows in that familiar Angry Birds style.

Viking vistas

The woody, snow-beaten world is amazing to behold.

You can almost taste the cleanness of the chill air just by looking at a screenshot, while the basic, block colouring really makes details pop against the minimal backdrops.

However, while undoubtedly still striking, somehow in motion it doesn't look as good. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why, but the primary issue seems to be the same one that plagues the overall gameplay: a certain sluggishness.

Get your skates on

Compared to the zip displayed by some endless runners, Vikings feels more like a leisurely winter stroll than a breathless sprint.

Of course, there is a valid reason for this. Spinning the two plates that are platforming and archery is tough enough as it is, without adding more speed into the mix.

But the fact remains that with each new run, you're waiting a good 5-10 seconds before you even need to touch the screen - a long time for a genre that relies on endless replayability, on a platform popularly used for two-minute gaming bursts.

Perhaps a more fundamentally problematic byproduct of the slow pace is the floaty and unsatisfying nature of the platforming which, far from chunky viking types, makes the heroes feel like they're half full of helium.

On target

But in the main, these issues don't prevent the game from being a great deal of fun. The archery is the game's unique hook, and it delivers on its promise.

A combo-driven game, each consecutive kill builds a score multiplier. Miss one shot, and everything is lost.

It's a classic risk versus reward mechanic, and one that works beautifully here. To increase its potency yet further, the music builds in layers as your combo increases.

Soaring to epic heights with swelling strings and pulsing percussion when you're riding high and crashing to a lonely, minimal sound as your combo collapses - it gives an emotional incentive beyond plain score-chasing.

Add to this some game-changing power-ups - the highlights being one that slows time and another that unleashes a proximity blast upon impact - and you've got an endless runner that gives way more than the average.

All it lacks is the finesse to reach greatness - something it could yet attain with just a handful of tweaks.

Vikings: An Archer's Journey review - Canabalt meets Angry Birds

Conceptually and artistically superb, Vikings: An Archer's Journey is an arrow that lands just shy of excellence
Matt Suckley
Matt Suckley
Achingly contrarian. Proud owner of an N-Gage and a PSP Go. Matt spends most of his time writing about indie games of which you've never heard. Like that one, yes. Matt is an English student, and largely terrible at games. Go figure.