Before Blizzard Entertainment achieved widespread fame as the publisher of the Warcraft and Starcraft franchises, the company was a third-party developer of games for the PC, Macintosh, Super Nintendo, and Genesis platforms. One of the company's earliest successes was a puzzle game called The Lost Vikings, which is now available for the Game Boy Advance.
The game's protagonists are a trio of Vikings--Erik, Baleog, and Olaf--who are abducted by aliens and dropped into an obstacle course featuring room after room of switches, keys, traps, and enemies. Each of the Vikings has his own specific abilities. Erik is a light-footed runner who can jump across long distances. He can also smash through walls made of soft brick. Baleog carries a sword and a bow, which he can use to attack enemies and trigger switches that are too distant for Erik to reach. Olaf, the third member of the group, carries a shield with multiple uses. You can point it forward to protect the group from a wide variety of enemy attacks, point it upward to give Erik a boost up to higher platforms, or hold it above Olaf's head and use it as a glider to float down steep drops. Most of the puzzles in each area require teamwork between at least two of the Vikings, so your goal is to figure out how to put their abilities together in order to reach the next room.
What makes The Lost Vikings so unique is that all three characters occupy their own space in the same environment. When you switch to a different character, the one you were just using stays put right where you left him. As such, you need to take care not to leave Erik or Baleog sitting in situations where they'll be pounced upon by enemies. Many times, you'll have to move Olaf into position to block enemies while you use Erik and Baleog to push switches or acquire keys. In some instances, there are power-up items available that any of the Vikings can use, such as bombs for clearing away stones or food items that replenish stamina. The only way to successfully solve a puzzle is to guide all three characters to the exit, but you have an unlimited number of retries with which to do so.
The Lost Vikings is a challenging game, and it features 37 levels, so it takes a while to finish. Some traps are impossible to avoid until you've experienced them at least once, and you'll often find yourself in split-second situations where you need to organize the Vikings in a specific order that you can discover only through trial and error. This sort of challenge may seem tedious to some people, especially since you spend a great deal of time in the game just catching the characters up to one another. Blizzard at least made it easy to take breaks in the GBA version, as it includes a battery save that lets you continue from the level you left off on. Unfortunately, this also eliminates one of the best side effects of the password system from the older Super NES and Genesis versions--the ability to replay previously completed levels.
For the most part, the GBA version of The Lost Vikings looks and sounds identical to the Super NES version. As such, the graphics and audio are passable, even though they don't particularly take advantage of the horsepower afforded by the GBA hardware. Each environment is designed with a different atmosphere in mind, including jungle, Egyptian, candy land, factory, and alien locales. The backgrounds are primarily composed of solid, drab colors, and much of the movement you'll see comes from the Vikings themselves or from the various enemies scattered throughout each environment. You'll also see a few waterfalls and lava flows here and there, but nothing in the way of transparency or scaling effects. As for the audio, it's mainly a few so-so sound effects played over the top of a humorous disco-style soundtrack that really suits the game's attitude.
If you're a fan of puzzle games and never had the chance to play The Lost Vikings when it was available for the PC, Super NES, or Genesis, then you'll probably get a decent amount of enjoyment out of this newer GBA version. The lack of any sort of time trial, multiplayer, or randomized mode is disappointing, however, especially if you're one of the many who played this game to death nearly a decade ago.