Review by Enigma
An interesting mixture of puzzles, exciting cutscenes, and well-researched
history place this intriguing and unusual game from Index+ in a
category almost on its own. If you're a history nut, as I am, you'll
very likely love Vikings, as I did. If you're not crazy about
history, you can still have lots of fun with it, and you might even
find that the game hatches a new interest for you.
A French company, Index+ so far has produced three games following
a similar format. Vikings was the first, followed by Crusader
and last year's Genesys,
all intended to be "edutainment" games. Vikings
follows a strong storyline that melds the daily life of the
Vikings with mystery and mythology. Even if you don't want to, it's
difficult not to learn something interesting about the Northmen
who ravaged Europe 1,000 years ago.
Our hero is Hjalmar, the son of a wealthy Viking lord from Iceland.
Hjalmar's father has been killed and his thriving estate destroyed
in a vicious attack. Hjalmar has taken refuge with Leif Harraldsson
in Norway. Harraldsson, however, suffers from a strange malady that
drains his strength. He calls on Eldgrim, a powerful shaman, for
a cure. Eldgrim's services don't come cheap. In order to pay, Harraldsson
must gather valuable items from across the entire Viking empire.
Once Eldgrim is satisfied, Harraldsson builds a "knorr,"
a Viking ship, to sail to Iceland and reclaim Hjalmar's holdings.
There the plot thickens with a sudden twist, and Hjalmar finds himself
accused of murdering his own father. With Eldgrim's help, Hjalmar
surmounts numerous obstacles ranging from the mundane to the supernatural
to become a legendary Viking hero.
The game takes place within various static scenes, such as Leif
Harraldsson's house, a street, or a dock area. Rather than cartoons
or static, unmoving statues, the characters are live actors shot
in full-motion video, then superimposed onto the screens. They move
constantly, and appropriate background noises add more life. The
actors and sound add a nice element of realism without turning the
player into a spectator. You right-click (or command-click for Macintosh)
on characters to hear what they have to say.
You'll move Hjalmar along through his adventures by solving the
riddles (called "enigmas," a term after my own heart)
that represent the tasks Hjalmar must complete. After watching a
movie cutscene, you visit two or more scenes wherein you'll listen
to characters for clues and find objects necessary to solve the
next riddle. Then you drag the objects you find onto the riddle
screen to build Leif Harraldsson's knorr or rebuild Hjalmar's Icelandic
estate. Not all of the objects you need will appear at first. Before
your can build your knorr, for example, you'll have to get the blacksmith
to forge the rivets and several other ship parts. With each successful
placement of a correct item, a numbered bar across the top of the
screen advances with a satisfying clang. After each riddle, another
movie with a voiceover by Eldgrim continues the plot, with several
shocking surprises along the way.
Note, however, that these riddles make Vikings almost 100%
linear. You will encounter many instances wherein you'll get stuck
because you can't find the next item, but you'll also find clues
in the statements of the characters and in the encyclopedia. Much
of it's really pretty simple, although a few puzzles can be frustrating.
When stuck, listen to the characters, read the encyclopedia, or
paint the screen watching for cursor changes. Index+ has provided
a complete walkthrough for the first two riddles to help players
learn how to play.
Not all of the riddles involve building knorrs or farms. One is
a voyage to Iceland that actually is a maze, but a rather interesting
one in which you are sailing the north seas with Harraldsson, who
makes comments along the way. You'll see whales, get lost in the
fog, and use crows to guide your path. Even without the clues, it's
quite easy to navigate to your goal just by blundering upon it.
Eventually you'll play two authentic Viking games as two of the
riddles. The first is the precursor of baseball (or cricket, if
you like), and the second is a devious logic puzzle that eventually
became the English game of draughts. The "baseball" game
requires a bit of hand-eye coordination, but once you get the hang
of it you'll find it to be really quite easy even if, like me, you're
all thumbs. The "draughts" game requires some serious
logical thinking. This one took me by far the longest time to win
out of all the riddles, but it was an extremely satisfying success
once I finally beat it. Of all the riddles, the "draughts"
game comes the closest to the kind of puzzle you'll find in more
The final puzzle is timed, but actually it is one of the easiest
in the game. Although you'll probably lose a few times, you'll retain
all of the objects you've gathered in your previous attempts. Once
you find them all, it's a cinch to put them where they're supposed
to go with plenty of time left over.
For clues, the wise player will make frequent "quickmoves"
to the encyclopedia that provides much of the educational aspect
of the game. Each entry shows photographs of real Viking artifacts
gathered from numerous museums in Europe, such as a Viking bed or
loom. Often, these are accompanied by superimposed live actors.
You may be surprised when you find a large photograph of a Viking
staring at you, and he suddenly blinks. All of the encyclopedia
entries have highlighted buttons that will take you to pages related
to your current subject. You can play the entire game without visiting
these encyclopedia pages, but you'll miss a great deal of what Vikings
has to offer, such as a good reproduction of the entire Bayeaux
Tapestry that recorded the Norman Conquest of England.
Nice atmospheric music and drop-dead beautiful scenery add to the
realism. As a fan of snowy mountain scenes, I really appreciated
the way the game depicted icy northern lands. Some shots of Viking
ships enshrouded in fog are simply gorgeous, and they add a great
deal to the whole experience of the game. Drawings of buildings
look real. You'll think you're back in time visiting a Viking village
when you see the wonderful artwork, with children and animals running
The voice acting, with British actors, isn't bad. Many of the worker
characters speak with working-class British accents, but these shouldn't
be too difficult for most Americans to understand. You can click
on the characters as many times as you like if you miss something.
The actor who plays Eldgrim, the narrator of the game, sounds remarkably
like John Hurt (but isn't). He keeps the suspense high and the mystery
moving along nicely.
With the exception of one riddle, Hjalmar doesn't speak. Oddly,
the young man who plays him slouches through his role, looking bored
throughout. That detached performance detracts from his supposedly
heroic demeanor and was the only aspect of the game that didn't
work for me. Nevertheless, the story remains exciting, building
into mystery and mythology in a fashion that keeps the play interesting.
I played on a 500 MHz iMac with OS 9.2 and 256 MB RAM, and I experienced
no difficulties at all. The game ran like buttah.
With or without the educational aspect of the game, I think you'll
find Vikings to be worth your time and money. Index+ obtained
grants from the European Community and produced a first-class product.
Of course, just by playing you're going to learn some fascinating
things about the Vikings. I was amazed by their technical skill.
I found the riddles interesting, and the evolving storyline constantly
propelled me forward. It's a great choice for young or old and should
help to incite an interest in learning more about the Vikings, all
while you're having fun.
Release Date: 1998
Four Fat Chicks Links
Pentium 133 or higher
Windows 95 or 98
16+ MB RAM
Video card with thousands of colors
16-bit sound card
4X CD-ROM drive (8X recommended)
OS 7 or higher
16+ MB RAM
Video card with thousands of colors
4X CD-ROM drive (8X recommended)