Vikings: an Archer's Journey ($2.99) by Pinpin Team is an endless runner that brings archery into the mix. If you enjoyed other minimalistic infinite runner games like Alto’s Adventure and the like, but want to feel like an awesome archer at the same time, then Vikings: an Archer’s Journey is the game for you. It’s pretty much what Temple Run: Brave should have been.
When the App Store first came out in 2008, I remember endless runner games being all the rage back then, but they’ve slowly dissipated over the years. And even though we’ve had a saturation of these games over time, there have only been a few standout ones, such as Canabalt, Temple Run, Ski Safari, and Alto’s Adventure, to name a few. But most of these still just had one core game mechanic in it, which was to just jump and avoid obstacles, and let’s face it — that can still get a bit boring after a while. But what about when an endless runner combines the precise art of archery? Well, that’s what Vikings is, and I was instantly drawn to it. Over the past few years, I’ve developed a liking for archery (thanks to certain movies and games), though I never tried it in real life yet, so naturally, I had to try Vikings myself. Needless to say, if you’re into runners, vikings, Norse mythology, and archery, then you’re in for a treat with this game.
Visually speaking, Vikings is a stunningly gorgeous game. It has a minimalistic aesthetic that reminds me strongly of Alto’s Adventure, except this game is filled with snow, vikings, and evil demons from Norse mythology. The game retains a flat look and feel for the most part, but the dynamic lighting, backdrops, and even the glowing effects give the game a layer of depth that works. Despite the minimalism, I felt that everything was fairly detailed for the art style, and the colors are beautiful as they range from soft pastels to bolder, more vibrant hues as time passes. Animations are buttery smooth in the game, and I experienced no lag on my iPhone 7. The game also has a rather whimsical and ambient soundtrack that is delightful to listen to, and it definitely immerses you into the Nordic setting of Helheim. Overall, I am in love with the visual and audio style that the developers have come up with here.
Even though the game is an infinite runner at heart, the developers have implemented a story to go along with the action. Players will take control of Nott, a Valkyrie that has incurred the wrath of Nordic gods, and her punishment is having her loyal wolf, Oder, sent to the Underworld in a dwelling of the deceased, also known as Helheim. So Nott gathers up her crew and sets out on a journey to recover her faithful companion. As an endless runner, there is only one game mode to play, but since it’s also combined with a “shoot ‘em up” game mechanic, things get interesting and challenging pretty quickly. Plus, each run is procedurally generated, so it’s never the same thing twice.
Controls in Vikings are easy to learn because it’s rather intuitive, but hard to master. Like all infinite runners, your character will be running forward automatically, so you don’t have to worry about that. What you do have to worry about, though, is avoiding obstacles like spikes and gaps in front of you, and to do that, just tap on the right half of the screen to jump. For the archery part, just touch-and-drag on the left half of the screen to aim your bow and arrow, and then release to shoot. It’s similar to the Angry Birds-style slingshot aiming, but can get a bit more complicated since you’re also moving at the same time. As I mentioned, the controls are easy when you look at them separately, but when you have to use both while you’re in motion, it can be a bit hectic as you get further along in the game.
While Nott starts out with a standard, single arrow shot, the game does provide various power-up runes that are easily noticeable — they’re brightly colored stones with glowing symbols on them. To collect these, just have your character run into it, and the power-up is yours to use, though it’s only for a brief amount of time, so use it wisely. The power-ups include formidable boosts like Bullet Time, Multi Arrows, Explosive Arrows, and more.
You can get a score multiplier if you manage to rack up a combo of successive kills, and if you can max it out, you’ll go into the almighty Fury mode, unleashing your rage upon your foes. The game also has objectives (shown at the start of each run) that you’ll want to complete, because the more goals you accomplish, the closer you are to unlocking another member of Nott’s crew to use in battle. Since there is no other way to unlock these characters to call upon their aid in battle, players will feel more motivated to meet objectives and make their lives easier when playing the game.
While I’m enjoying the game a lot so far, I did think that the game difficulty was a bit unforgiving, even in the beginning. However, the developers have told me that the next update (coming this week) should fix the difficulty with enemies and levels, while also bringing plenty of other welcome improvements, so I’m looking forward to that. I also felt that sometimes it seemed like Nott’s movement, especially while jumping over some spikes, can feel a bit slower than usual, so maybe that can be optimized in the future as well.
Otherwise, the game is incredibly fun and one I’m keeping around for a while. The graphics are downright beautiful and look great on Retina screens. The music is captivating and soothing, despite the dark theme of the game. The controls are simple, but do take time and practice to master fully, and I’m still working my way there. It’s been a while since I really got into an endless runner game, but this one has rekindled the spark thanks to the mashup of shooter and runner.
I highly recommend checking out Vikings if you’ve been wanting a challenging but fun infinite runner with precise shooting elements, or just love Norse mythology. You can find Vikings: an Archer’s Journey on the App Store as a universal download for just $2.99. There are no in-app purchases.