Version Reviewed: 1.21
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S
Graphics / Sound: Rating:
Game Controls: Rating:
Replay Value: Rating:
Lost Viking is a puzzle game with roguelike mechanics where players match blocks to help a viking named Ragnar reach Valhalla. Along the way they'll face off against demons and rams, unlock chests of loot, and camp by a fire to heal some wounds. In gameplay terms, all of these things are done using mechanics very similar to the popular puzzle games that came out this year, like Threes!. Although Lost Viking employs these puzzle elements in some smart ways to keep it from feeling like a knockoff, it's woefully unbalanced to the point of being frustrating.
In the game, Ragnar the Viking moves across the top of the screen until encountering an obstacle. These obstacles can be enemies, rewards, or some mix of both, but all require players to slide and match tiles of the appropriate type around the bottom half of the screen to determine what action is taken. For example, when Ragnar encounters enemies, players need to match as many swords as possible - whereas when a chest is present, keys need to be matched. Things get a bit tricky rather quickly though, because (much like Threes!) choosing to slide these tiles around involves moving all tiles in the same direction at the same time every time a move is made.
This style of movement makes Lost Viking a game of tile management in addition to a more typical matching game. The ultimate goal is to get Ragnar to Valhalla, but players will quickly learn that moving across the environment can be slow going and difficult. It will require many runs in to accumulate coins, purchase upgrades, and learn tile management strategies to even make it to the second environment, which is still significantly far away from Valhalla.
While this premise for a game seems pretty fantastic (particularly when paired with some nicely animated visuals), Lost Viking just seems to be too random to feel like players are ever really making meaningful progression. Tile placements, enemy encounters, and other ill effects can and will change abruptly and often between runs to the point that if players get lucky in the beginning, their progress could be stopped entirely. For instance, if players somehow luck out and make it to a new area before they typically should, they may not have enough gold to purchase the upgrades necessary to defeat any enemies in the new environment. Once defeated they can always try again, but making progress to a new environment punishes these lucky players because each new run begins from the start of a new area.
Hopefully this will be addressed in a future update, but as of now this particular problem can halt progress in Lost Viking forever. Although this scenario won't necessarily happen to every player, it could. Even if it doesn't the game is also fairly grind-heavy and feels a bit too random for its own good.
I've always subscribed to the notion that the best roguelikes allow players to get better through developing their knowledge of the game mechanics and using that to their advantage. While this is conceivably true of Lost Viking in concept it's not true in practice, which makes it something of a letdown.