The beat-em up genre has always been a personal favorite style of mine. From the golden age of Double Dragon and Turtles in Time, I seem to find myself entranced in these games for hours on end.

I got the chance to sit down and play Viking Squad at PAX West this year and had taken the formula of this genre and tweaked it a little bit. The main change to the formula is the usage of locking rows instead of the standard manually moving up and down the screen. This one mechanic managed to pull the difficulty away from trying to line up with an enemy and the enemies themselves. The other change is the inclusion of a loot system.

I stumbled across Viking Squad while walking around the Indie Mega Booth and the first thing that brought me in was the bright cartoony visuals.  Everything about the graphics is visually appealing, with the lively animations, colorful worlds, and varying landscapes; this is just like playing a Saturday morning cartoon.

During my playthrough, I found that Viking Squad is a very simple title to pick up. The control scheme is very simple with the standard, heavy, and light attacks to create varying combos, as well as special moves mapped to the L2 and R2 buttons. This works for the fast paced combat and waves of enemies. Another thing that was important to the simplicity of the gameplay is the inclusion of locking pathways. Where in other 2D beat-em ups, there are some depth perception issues and can cause players to miss an enemy, Viking Squad has three rows for players to jump to in order to navigate and fight enemies, this means that instead of moving around until being within the hitbox of an enemy, a player would just have to switch rows and they can conquer their foes.

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What won me over was the loot system. As I went through the various caves and villages I was collecting treasures and other power ups. These treasures can be used to upgrade your character through leveling up skills and buying new equipment. Even if you die in the middle of a level, you will still keep all of the items collected and can still use them to upgrade your character.

I really enjoyed Viking Squad and I can’t wait to get some more time with this game. The visuals alone draw you into the world and feels like a cartoon that I would have watched as a child. This is set to come out some time later this year and will be available on PlayStation 4 and PC.

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