In Vikings Row!, by I-Play, you play as Bjorn, the captain of a Viking longboat. Due to excessive partying, the ship’s coffers have been mysteriously emptied. Now you’ve been tasked with helping Bjorn and his crew collect copious amounts of gold in order to restore your reserve to its former glory. Conveniently, gold coins have been left scattered all over about 48 levels that span 6 themed worlds, so as long as you can stand to do a lot of rowing, you should be able to reclaim your booty in no time.
The actual rowing mechanic is what makes Vikings Row a unique game, and it’s a surprisingly solid fit for the iPhone. Using both thumbs you’ll swipe on either side of your boat to control directional movement and speed. Swiping with both fingers at once will propel your boat forward in a burst of manly energy, while swiping on just the right side or left side will turn your boat in the desired direction. If you’ve ever had to steer a canoe in real life, the mechanic should feel instantly familiar.
As you cruise through the game’s maze-like levels you’ll have to collect coins to improve your score, but you’ll also have to be mindful of the time limit and deadly obstacles like sharp rocks if you hope to make it to the finish line unscathed. Powerups can add to your time limit or make you temporarily invincible, so it’s important to keep an eye out for anything that can be picked up.
Graphically speaking, Vikings Row is a cute looking game that neither offends nor stands out as something particularly impressive. On the other hand, the game’s constantly looping background music is about as offensive as it gets. The Viking chants felt old after about 30 seconds for me, and you can’t listen to your own music unless you manually add the songs you want to hear to a playlist.
Vikings Row is not the next Angry Birds, but it offers a unique experience that easily makes it worth a look.
[Ryan Rigney is a contributor to Macworld.]