Do you remember those games you used to play 20 years ago, that were ridiculously hard and you couldn't get pass the 2nd stage ? Well, Volgarr the Viking is their grandson.
[TL;DR at the bottom as usual]
This is a game that, for those who were born in the 80's like me, rings many bells (Ghosts 'n Goblins, anyone?). Volgarr is an old style 2D arcade platform that shares many aspects with games like the one I just mentioned, first of all: the difficulty. You WILL die in this game, so many times that you will reach new levels of frustration that you didn't even know they existed (unless you already experimented them by playing videogames during the 80's and early 90's ... I did). However, even as I died every 10 steps, I couldn't stop playing. The game purpose is to make you learn by your mistakes; did you try to kill that enemy by throing a spear at him but he killed you ? That must be the wrong approach then, keep that in mind and try again. Learning each level by heart is the key to achieve victory: one step too much, one hit of your sword that is not timed correctly, a double-jump too high and you're one step closer to your doom. Oh, I almost forgot, did you see that hole in the wall that shoots arrows ? No? Ow, sorry you're dead.
2D sidescroll platform, there isn't much you can do. 4 movements : Left, Right, Jump, Crouch and 4 actions: roll, sword hit, throw javelin, die. Ok, that was a joke... you can even block with your shield by standing still, so I guess there are 5 actions you can perform. Also, your javelins can be thrown at walls to create platforms (usually secrets are hidden high up in the levels). There is also a zoom key that will allow you to see further than usual and you can toggle it, it is useful for obvious reasons and you basically play with that always on, I don't see why you shouldn't.
Good thing about the game is that you can play with a keyboard or a joypad, and you can bind any key as you see fit. Speaking of actions and buttons, I wish there was another action you could perform, which I believe it's kinda coomon in games like this one. I'm referring to the action that allows you to jump down a platform by passing through it. Usually you can do that by pressing down+jump, but hitting those keys will make you roll instead. I guess this is a choice made by the devs rather than a flaw in the game, I admit that kind of action would have made my life easier in some occasions.
As I said before, you are challenged by the difficulty of the game, if you die you start from the beginning, no savegames, and no checkpoints until you reach the end of the level and kill the boss. Then you can start the game from the latest level reached (but with basic equipment).
Yes, you have some equipment and it represents your total hit points. You start with a sword, a wooden shield and unlimited javelins. You get hit once, you lose your shield (you can block attack with the shield but only 2 or 3, then it breaks); you get hit twice, you die. If you manage to find equipment, without getting hit, you gain more equipment and hitpoints: a better shield that can withstand unlimited hits, a helmet that will boost your attack speed and a flaming sword that does double damage. There is also a special item hidden in every level: Thor's Mjolnir. This is basically an ♥♥♥ saver in case you get hit; the power granted by the hammer will wipe almost everything on screen and you will lose its power but not your equipment.
You are a viking raised from the dead by Odin, you go chop chop and that's all. No storytelling at all, this game is minimalistic [<---overstatement] on this aspect. That's the way it was in the 80's, the limited memory space available didn't allow for cutscenes or much text on screen and the game strengths were its gameplay and graphics. However, even though this game doesn't need a story to be played, I would heve been happy to hear something more than "Rise Warrior!" spoken by Odin. "Yeah I have risen, now what Odin? You want foot massage? Coffe? Ow, killing! Sure! Sorry, I should have guessed. Killing, ok, but what ? Everythig ? Well, allright, no problem, cheers mate, see ya later!"
Anyways, I don't think I can judge something that isn't there, but only the fact that is missing. The game seems to function perfectly even without a story, so it's not much of a bad thing, but still I feel it would have added some epicness to the game.
Pure 80's 2D style, I like that. Sprites and animations make you go back in time (if you have been). If you didn't grow up whit games like Contra, Gosts 'n Goblins or any other similar titles you might not feel the same as I did while playing Volgarr. Animations are simple, both yours and those of your enemies, maybe a bit too much, but there is nothing wrong with that if you think about what Volgarr the Viking wants to be: an homage to the classical era of videogames.
I had goosebumps when I first heard Odin's words: "Rise warrior!". It reminded me of a game I used to play on the SEGA Mega Drive: "Altered Beast". In that game you were, like Volgarr, resurrected from your grave by some sorcerer who spoke almost the same words "Rise from your grave!". Maybe I'm too nostalgic, but I'm almost sure that's been done purposely as an homage to that game, which is much alike Volgarr.
For what concerns the rest of the sounds in the game, I can say that "Volgarr the Viking" is coherent with the 80's style even under this aspect.
If you have played hard platform games during the 80's and loved them, this is the game for you.
Volgarr will keep you playing for hours challenging your memory, your refelxes and, most of all, your patience.
Overall score 8/10