Presented with vibrant, cel-shaded aplomb, When Vikings Attack is essentially a game of crowd-versus-crowd control. You maneuver a cluster of portly citizens, brought together in the face of an inexplicable, anachronistic viking invasion of 1970s England. The number of people in your crowd is an indicator of your speed, health and strength, and more able bodies can lift larger and heavier objects.
That's right: the secret to thwarting the Norsemen of the apocalypse is to pick up the manufactured detritus of civilization, such as benches, cars, ambulances and phone booths, and hurl it at incoming streams of invaders. It's a bit like bowling, with mismatched, costumed people for pins, and balls coming in every shape, size and seriously you can throw everything at everyone. When playing alone (or as alone as you can be in a patriotic mob), you push through a scrolling environment, gathering impromptu projectiles and knocking vikings out as they spill from the screen's periphery. That's one button to lift and throw objects, and another to initiate a brief, aimed dash. The latter move also doubles as dodge in the game's loony multiplayer mode.
With four opposing players -- and thus four mobs -- vying for supremacy in a large arena, When Vikings Attack becomes a delirious bout of dodgeball. A, well-aimed, ultra-wide bench can knock your entire team off its feet, and the introduction of explosive objects and environmental hazards (like automobiles in an intersection) recalls the chaotic climax of a Bomberman match. You can also smash into others to transfer hoisted ownership of their weapons to your own group.
When Vikings Attack is an approachable, amusing game that seems ideal for parties -- the kind where people don't want to bother with lengthy tutorials or a stack of cards with statistics on the back. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but we all have friends that would rather fling out the rules and dive straight into something fun.
The game -- the first from two-person developer Clever Beans -- will also support online and cross-platform play. Vita players and PS3 players are matched up seamlessly in any combination, with the Vita version's 30 frames-per-second display being the only perceivable difference compared to the 60 frames on PS3. And if you buy When Vikings Attack on one platform, you'll get it on the other for free. If priced right, we might just have a solid pick-up-and-throw-down party game to join the ranks of Death Tank and Bomberman.