ZX Spectrum Retro Review - Viking Raiders

The loading screen - beware the one-armed viking! (nice legs)
Do you ever dream of pillaging towns, stealing their women, getting drunk and generally causing chaos? Come on, I know it's not just me. (Anyone?) Well if you do, maybe you could give Viking Raiders a go - though there is no stealing women involved so don't get too excited.

A very simple, though addictive game awaits you if you fire up this Firebird classic. You take control of your viking leader pitting your wits, and muscle, against up to three other viking leaders. These can be controlled by either human players or the Speccy will control them for you. From the title screen you can select your character from this 'orrible lot (Yaaaarrgh!)

I've always wanted to be Execrable. I think.
Your selection of Viking will not directly effect the way you play as you control everything  you do and, in all honesty, the other Vikings however many you have controlled by the Speccy, will tend to act the same too. There doesn't seem to be any correlation between your Viking or how strong they are, so really it's all about whether you want your Viking to have a beard or not. Or if you want them to be a girl.

You do get the option at the menu to view a demonstration game so you can see how the game is played, which is a really good feature and this can be stopped at any time. You also get the option of a guide to graphics. Again, helpful if you haven't played before as there are a few things to avoid, namely drinking horns which will without fail, leave your men in such a state that they forget who they're fighting for and join another army. Pfft! After all that faith you showed in them too. That's gratitude for you!

Quick! Chase after it! (Sorry)

Onto the game and at first you're presented with a blank screen but it soon fills with a randomly generated map, which in smoothly animated bit by bit. First the sea is drawn and then each is castle is placed on the map in random places. Each castle has a different colour, the colour of which is defined at the title menu. Then we have added treasure chests and drinking horns. When the map is finished, you are presented with some options; start the game, redraw the map or start again. Why would you want the map re-drawn, you may think? Well, depending on where you castle is, you may well end up being blocked in by the sea which can make building an army quite difficult. The only way out of this situation is by purchasing a boat so you can move members of your army across the map, though this can leave you vulnerable to attack.

There's no treasure chest next to my castle? Redraw please!

Once you're happy with the map (usually after you've had it re-drawn at least four times, which is usually the case for me! I'm quite fussy) you can then get on the with the game. This is your opportunity to buy an army, a boat, a catapult or all three, though you are limited by space so you have to buy wisely. If you've run out of space, don't panic! You get the chance to add to your arsenal after each turn after you've taken all of your moves. 

A, B, C...it's easy as army, boat, catapult. Sing along!
So, you've done your first bit of shopping now it's down to the other Vikings to do theirs. If you've chosen to play against a few Speccy-driven opponents, you'll find they will go for the same combination every time. Three army men, a catapult and a boat. Every time. Without fail. I guess this shows some of the games' limitations but, let's not forget that this is a game written in BASIC and considering that, you have to appreciate the overall depth of the game.

Now it's time to get down to business! It's your turn and now one of your army will start to flash, this indeed means you now have the option to start moving your men around the map. The direction that your men and the rest of your arsenal are controlled are by numbers on the keyboard. Starting from 1 and up to 8, you can move in any direction starting diagonal up-left, up, up-right, etc. The direction pressed will see you man move until he either reaches the end of the screen, hits the water, walks into a drinking horn (fun!) or gets into a fight with another bloke (in which you get a nice little animation) and loses - if he wins, he will carry on until he can go no further.

In addition to moving until you have to stop, you can select the 'Special Move' option from the menu (I played the game for years before realising you could do this), which is especially helpful if you want to avoid any drinking horns or any fights (wuss) with the other soldiers. You can also use this to line up your men with enemies' castles so that you can attack them on your next move. Selecting 'Special Move' will allow you to choose which direction you want to move and then how many spaces from 1-9. Just remember to turn it off when you don't need it. I've fallen foul of that many, many times.

Top Tip: It's worth remembering the order in which you've moved your army around as you can find your men stuck when it comes to moving them on future turns which in turn can be quite frustrating! (yep, I've done this several times - will I ever learn?)

The object of the game? Well, as mentioned above to overthrow the other vikings of course by attacking their castles. How do you do this? (What's with all the questions?!) In essence, you need to attack the castles of the other viking's with your men until until you are presented with a lovely beeper tune confirming that you have defeated your enemy. Upon defeating any of the Vikings, you will then take control of what's left of their army and any boats or catapults. Result! If you have chosen to take on more than one Viking, you must carry on until they're all defeated.

As the moves progress, the sea does start to dissipate so if you're a bit of a Scrooge with your money and don't want to part with extra cash for a boat (I can relate to this), then you will eventually be able to roam around the map willy-nilly. Hurrah! But if you have invested in a boat, be careful not to leave it washed up as if the water decides to evaporate around your boat, it's stuck there forever.

Defeat the sea? I can's sea how you'd be able to do that.

Aside from a few bugs - see above where a previous caption from the game has re-appeared after a ship has been sunk - there's not a lot you can knock about this game. Yes, it looks very basic and sound isn't up to much but it doesn't really need it. The playability is there and there are lot of options - renaming the Vikings, demo games, re-drawing the map if you're not happy, quite a lot for a BASIC game.

The only quibbles I have are that the computer controlled Vikings do have a few advantages over you. The Vikings have unlimited gold, though you have to retrieve more if you run out, via the treasure chests. Also, with regards to movement, they can move any direction and any distance outside of your restrictions. This includes moving any boat or catalpult and also the distance of which you can fire the catapult, so in theory they can get you wherever you are on the map. Though you will find that frequently, the Vikings will just catapult a random patch on the map. You see the catapult take aim, you close your eyes and wince thinking that's it going to get you and then.........it lands in the sea. You live to fight another day! Huzzah!

All in all, a sometimes compelling game that you can end up playing for hours if you get stuck in an epic battle but the sense of achievement when you finally overthrow one of them will make you jump up and say 'Hurrah!' in a Viking way.

A few of you may be asking 'Surely a game this epic needs a remake?! Well, for those of you who do feel like this, your prayers have been answered! Though only available on Android, you can download for free a re-visioned version of the game. It stays true to the original gameplay and the same retro graphics are present to give that classic feel to the game. I've spent many an hour on this one and highly recommend if you Viking Raiders fans fancy a re-make of this classic.

Viking Invaders - a worthy tribute to the original.
Review by Florinthedwarf!
Links : 1) Twitter

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