There’s no denying that I-Play likes to take on kooky subjects when it comes to iPhone games. Whether it’s the fowl antics of Pigeon Squadron, the “brutal” battles of Pillowfight Girls, or the disgruntled worker’s fantasy of Blend The Boss, I-Play has some odd games in their portfolio. Vikings Row! is a great fit, then, as you take control of a Viking ship that must recover its lost booty after a night of drunken pillaging. Unfortunately, in my case what could be a rather enjoyable experience tends to get marred by some unwieldy controls. More talented gamers might find it acceptable, but I guess I’m proof that just because you play a lot of games, it does not mean you’re necessarily any good at them.
I still haven’t worked out the logistics yet, but somehow a bunch of big, burly men in a sturdy wooden boat managed to lose an entire night’s plunder. Guess there was a hole in the bag? Anyway, now that the crew is theoretically sober, it’s up to you to help guide them through 48 levels across 6 different worlds to recover all their gold. It won’t be easy, as your path will be littered with whirlpools, rapids, and many things that make your ship go “ouch”. There are a few things that you can safely run into or over, but most things will be happy to take one or more lives away from you, depending on how well you’ve gotten yourself trapped. You start with five lives, and when they are gone you have to start the level over.
If the lives don’t get you, the timer will. Each level is timed. In some you get the time all at once, and in others you get a little time to start and must reach checkpoints to get more time. On many occasions I have literally run out of time right before the finish line. But wait, there’s more. You must also collect a certain number of coins to earn a bronze shield. If you don’t get at least a bronze you can’t pass the level. You can of course earn sliver and gold shields as well, but I’m happy to get a bronze on most levels.
There really aren’t a whole lot of bonuses to be found in the game. Once in a while you’ll come across a stash that gives you a significant bump in your gold meter. You might also find extra timers even on levels that don’t have checkpoints. The one bonus that is pretty cool is the Berserker token, which for a short time allows you to break through anything without getting hurt. If you see this on a level, you should pretty much assume that you’re going to need it.
Now comes the part that I don’t get along with – the controls. To move the boat forward or backward you swipe two fingers (down for forward and up for backward). If you want to turn left, swipe down on the left side of the boat. To turn right, use the right side of the boat. To make a sharp turn you must swipe two fingers in a somewhat circular fashion in the direction you want to turn. This is the main issue, because once you get going the “fast turn” is often hard to execute, only to finally be pulled off once you actually want to go straight again. I have lost so many lives trying to execute the fast turns, and I’m almost 20 levels into the game. Innovative controls? To an extent, yes. Practical for the craziness that ensues in some of these levels? Not really.
The graphics in Vikings Row are pretty nice. The top down perspective suits the game well, especially since you see very little of the Vikings themselves during the game. There are nice little details like silhouettes of fish swimming in the water or birds or bats flying overhead. I love the levels where you are in the whale and there is garbage floating past you. Very authentic (at least what I’ve been told from every Saturday morning cartoon).
The sound effects are also pretty decent. Nothing overly memorable, but nothing overwhelming either. I’m a bit disappointed that there aren’t any comments from the Vikings as you’re sailing along. There’s a lot of room for humor there, I’d think. The music is nice, and fits the mood of the game fairly well. It’s a tad ominous, but nothing overly brooding.
This game has so much potential, and I really want to say that I enjoy it. I just can’t get over my frustrations with the controls. You can replay any level to try and get a better shield, but the reality is that I’m so relieved when I finally pass a level that there’s no way I’d go back and play it again. The concept, the graphics and the sound are all there, but the game almost becomes stressful when you’re trying to turn the ship and it’s just not cooperating, and a stressful game is not a fun game.