Vikings on Trampolines preview | Bouncing and brawling rolled into one

The creators of Owlboy return with the bounciest multiplayer brawler in the land, Vikings on Trampolines…


It’s not easy playing a video game in front of the people that actually made it. It’s a bit like eating a meal directly in front of its chef, but you’re standing on the top of a pole six feet off the ground and trying not to fall off and make an idiot of yourself. Thankfully, Vikings on Trampolines is the kind of fun, pick-up-and-play experience that can be understood in a few seconds. “It’s probably one of those games where, the drunker you are, the better you’re going to perform,” jokes Jo-Remi Madsen, the game’s creator and programmer. “We’ve tried to make a fighting game where people can see how it works with no explanation whatsoever,” says art director Simon Stafsnes Andersen. “We’ve had people that are drunk out of their minds actually beat us.”

It’s all in the title: you and up to three friends each takes control of a Viking, and use a set of trampolines at the bottom of the screen to bounce them around. Brilliantly, all of this is achieved with a single stick on the controller: you can hold the stick up to kick your feet and stay in the air for an extra fraction of a second or so, or pull down to do a ground pound – the latter perfect for attacking bosses, say. But while the controls are simple, the wealth of modes and imagination on display is huge. There’s a story mode, boss battles, and an array of minigames: battle royale, a chaotic take on football, and a competitive mode where you have to burst your opponents’ balloons in a spiked arena.

Vikings on Trampolines

Bouncing is the common factor in all of them: touching the ground means instant death, so your trampolining has to be laser-accurate – which is tricky when you’re ricocheting off other players or the head of, say, a gigantic sea creature in the middle of a thunderstorm.

D-Pad Studio’s previous game was Owlboy, a heartfelt Metroidvania whose jaw-droppingly beautiful pixel art came at a cost: development took a startling ten years. With that in mind, you’d be forgiven for assuming that Vikings on Trampolines was envisioned as a relatively quick project – a palate-cleanser, if you like, between bigger games. Not a bit of it: Vikings on Trampolines began life 20 years ago as a prototype, called Civilization Rampage, that Madsen made when he was a teenager (“I couldn’t animate at the time, so my adolescent thought was, ‘Oh, I’ll use trampolines’,’” he recalls). Ten years after that, Madsen showed the dormant idea to Andersen, and a new version of that earlier prototype took shape. Recalls Andersen: “We made that, brought it to the Nordic Game Conference, and then won Game of the Year. But then we started working on Owlboy. Now it’s eleven years since then, and we’re picking it back up.”

As with Owlboy, Vikings on Trampolines’ artwork is absolutely sumptuous. The game may be smaller in scale compared to Owlboy, but its pixel art is equally packed with colour and life. Andersen tells us that the resolution is almost double that of Owlboy’s, allowing for a wealth of detail in everything from the huge bosses that fill much of the screen to the gleefully intricate backgrounds. “I did Owlboy, so I wanted to up the ante on that,” says Andersen. “But you have really tiny characters, and then you have all the enemies at the same time, and I wanted them to have detail, but getting that detail to shine through when they’re jumping around at 300 miles an hour is a big challenge… One of the big challenges in pixel art, too, is big, detailed backgrounds. And the entire game is a giant, detailed background.”

Vikings on Trampolines

There’s a giddy, creative joy running through Vikings on Trampolines, from the art to its jaunty music to the fizzy action, which makes our time with D-Pad Studios less of a regular interview and more like a rowdy game night in our living room at home. Vikings on Trampolines is so enjoyable, in fact, that we’re slightly concerned it might still be months, if not years, before we actually get to play the finished product. “We’re sort of aiming for next year,” Andersen says when we put the subject of release dates to him. We quietly note the hint of uncertainty in his voice. “It’s sort of a ‘no promises’ kind of a deal because, well, we’re D-Pad Studios.”

“I mean, with Owlboy, we initially announced it to come out in 2011,” grins Madsen, “and it came out in 2016. So we’ve learned our lesson. We’re going to tell people we’re launching… when it’s done!”

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