Neon chooses a local multiplayer favourite.
Our honourable mentions are games we feel deserve praise but didn't make it into our games of the year list. This might be because the game in question wasn't released in 2012 or simply because only one person felt the game was worthy of consideration. This is our chance to give these games some time in the limelight.
For a games journalist, E3 represents the most gruelling week of the year. Don't get me wrong – I know there are lots of you reading this who'd happily pimp out your granny for an expo pass, and yes, it can be hugely exciting. But it's also hard work, or as close to hard work as the job ever gets for many of us.
At the dog end of this year's E3, I found myself in Sony's private showcase area. Sony tends to hire out the same private meeting rooms, upstairs in the West Hall, and then turn it into a mini arena of its own; I'm not convinced that any one place at E3 could be described as relaxing, but this comes pretty close. On the day in question, I was there to check out a few things that were slated for release on PSN in the coming months. I had a go on The Unfinished Swan, gazed lovingly at Tokyo Jungle... and then I found When Vikings Attack!
Do you remember what E3 was like this year? How the air was thick with disappointment, with the feeling that even the sturdiest, most reliable franchises were out to play it safe, to rip-off Uncharted (again), or simply paper over their cracks with lashings of ultraviolence? What a let-down. But Sony's PSN line-up seemed to offer a ray of sunshine. At the time, I thought Unfinished Swan might be the leader of the pack; now, with hindsight, I think When Vikings Attack! was the cream of the crop.
A downloadable title it may be, but When Vikings feels unashamedly old-fashioned – and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. It's armed with a cheeky British sense of humour, and to a certain extent it reminds me of the kind of games we used to make here in the 80s, of Skool Daze and the like. But beneath the tongue-in-cheek exterior, it's got the heart and soul of a SNES game – specifically, Bomberman 2. I'm convinced that if you drew blood from this, Bomberman, Mario Kart and Puzzle Bobble, you'd find the same DNA strands.
I have to confess, I never did get around to trying the single-player campaign. The multiplayer is just too damn good, and if you'll forgive me for sounding like the The League of Gentleman, it works because it's local. I've tried and tried to get into online multiplayer, but I don't think anything will every compare to the fun I get from thrashing a mate who's sitting right next to me. The banter. The arguments. The Haribo overdose, and the spilled drinks on the floor. That's what I want in a multiplayer mode. Vikings Attack Doesn't actually provide a 2 litre bottle of Dr Pepper of its own accord, but if could, it would.
I should tell you what the game's about, really, but I'm not going to. It's far better to watch people playing. So without any further ado, here's the Extended Play that Matt and I recorded earlier this year. This was the first time Matt had ever seen the game, let alone played it for himself:
Come on, how can you resist a game like that?