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AstroViking (PC) artwork

AstroViking (PC) review

"Dodging bullets and boredom."

AstroViking is the story of an all-powerful female viking taking on endless waves of alien attackers in a relatively small, unchanging arena. Pulse pounding, funky elevator music champions our cause as we struggle to control our bullet punching (as in, bullets come out of her fists) heroine with the keyboard-and-mouse setup. Yes, that's right: there's no controller support for this top down, twin-stick style shooter, and that seems like both a huge oversight by the developers, and a tragic circumstance for me.

The limited control scheme didn't make my life difficult right away -- naturally, early enemy waves start off easy, offering up slow moving cannon fodder with basic bullet patterns for you to dodge while circling, strafing and returning fire. The aliens remind me of the bad guys from Q*bert -- they're basically coloured shapes. Uninspired enemy forces notwithstanding, their number and efforts will elicit the usual twin-stick evasive maneuvers, and beyond that, AstroViking's arena offers large indestructible rocks in each of its four corners behind which you can play peekaboo while pot-shotting troublesome foes. And foes do get troublesome later on, emitting faster and more complex cascades of bullets which require either precision slipping or for you to be a half screen out of harm's way to safely navigate.

Between levels, access to a trio of upgrade trees is offered wherein you can improve your weapon -- bigger bullets, faster bullets, piercing bullets -- your dash, and your vortex attack. Make the dash cover a greater distance, and/or cause more damage while in transit; create a vortex that sucks in enemies from further and further away, in order to mire them as sitting ducks for your weapons.

It's all down to how you allot your currency. In the end, it pays to put together a balanced loadout, as powering up everything adequately sets the scene for the proverbial shooting of fish in a barrel at the vortex's behest, and it's a pretty sweet strategy to clump a group of foes together, fire upon them with impunity until they get organized enough to return fire, and then dash through their bullets and bodies both to escape on the other side, you intact, and them... not so much.

AstroViking is a good bit of fun for a very short time, but it's fun nonetheless. There doesn't seem to be any ending, and there are no achievements, so the only way to gauge how well you've done is by checking the online leaderboard, which not only shows how deep into the fray others have managed to wade, but how the game rates that progress through awarding Olympic style medals. I managed to push into the 20s and was awarded a "gold;" the top scorer got into the low 30s and received a platinum distinction for his or her trouble.

Clearly, as the game is wave-based, there are no saves here -- you get as far as you can get, and then you move on, until, the developers hope, the itch returns for you to have another go in hopes of improving your score and getting just a little further. Unfortunately, the limited and unchanging tunes don't do much to alleviate the inherently repetitive nature of such a game; over and over you do the same things on the same backdrop. I found myself losing interest before losing my life -- in fact, for me sheer tedium took hold somewhere in the teen levels and likely contributed to my carelessness and eventual death. Boredom then, is your greatest enemy, not any alien onscreen. Even the boss waves, which in name seem exciting, simply present an ostensibly more difficult wave of the same enemies you've been fighting all along.

AstroViking's price point -- a couple bucks -- seems about right. I did have a good time in spite of myself, even with the keyboard-and-mouse arrangement, and it's a game that's easy to pick up and get into. The trouble is, it's just as easy to put down. It's a fun, fast, distraction that requires some real shoot-em-up skills to make appreciable headway. Once you've done so, or failed to do so depending on your level of experience with the genre, the lack of any ingredients that might come together towards anything resembling actual immersion (beyond the light sweat worked up through bullet-dodging), kiboshes replay value altogether.


Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (August 26, 2018)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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