Let's talk about fake difficulty in games. In the olden days, often times due to the limitations of the hardware, developers would create certain portions of games that forced you to resort to trial-and-error tactics, often creating cheap deaths and frustration.
But of course, to say every retro game resorted to this is a complete fallacy, as I could name a large number of great platformers that did not enforce to this limitation -- namely Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers by Capcom, which allowed for a failsafe "box shield" mechanic to avoid unnecessary cheap deaths.
Volgarr the Viking is another fair game that can be described more as "challenging" than cheap. So to help you out a bit with the challenging part, I've created a small list of tips to nudge you to the finish line.
Get in the habit of holding the zoom button constantly to survey your surroundings until you get a level down pat. The zoom button is a great way to eliminate any feeling of fake difficulty, because like Spelunky, any time you die it's usually your fault.
Going along with the zoom function, spears are your friend. Throw them often, and make use of the double jump spear constantly. If you're trying to create a ledge, note that you need to be approximately three character lengths away before you can make it stick to the wall. Don't limit yourself -- you can throw spears a lot faster than you think you can, so sling away. Also, if you have the hammer shield, you can charge your spear up to make short work of multiple weak enemies.
When in doubt, most puzzles involve spears. Create spear bridges anywhere you can, and note that you can throw them through certain barriers that are shaped differently than the rest. When you're on a chain or rope climbing up, keep in mind that creating a makeshift spear platform to rest on can save your life if you need to jump back down.
The shield is very dynamic. You can even guard against attacks from behind as you're climbing on ropes while the shield is on your back (use this to your advantage and face the shield towards wall-mounted spear spitters). Said spear spitters are also positioned horizontally, by the way, so you can spot them while they attempt to disguise themselves among similar scenery.
The crouching slash can trick most humanoid enemies in the game. Use this a lot on stage three against the shield-wielding skeletons -- better yet, try not to fight them if possible and double-jump over them after creating gaps with crouch slashes.
Try not to backtrack a lot to avoid respawns of menial enemies. This includes the lizards in level one and the skeletons in level three. If possible, keep moving forward.
Restart if you lose some gear early in a level. Getting incremental gear is key to your success, and having to re-earn everything can be a thorn in your side and not allow you to reach your full potential as a player. For instance, you can kill the first boss in one fell swoop (read: five seconds) with the fire sword.
Your double jump is actually an attack. Learn how many hits enemies can take in total, and use this on their last remaining hit to avoid damage. You can also cancel a downwards stab attack into a spin jump.
On that note, do not overuse the double jump. You can't compensate for over-jumping, so make use of the single jump often when leaping over traps.
This is a trick I learned at a young age when playing Mega Man X2 -- when facing enemies that spit projectiles, visualize said projectiles and tune everything else out. Watch how the bullets move, where they end up, and focus entirely on not getting hit by them (can you tell I love bullet hell games?). Don't even necessarily focus on the enemy itself -- just avoid damage, and eventually you will be able to kill it without issues over time.
For spitting plants (or enemy derivatives thereof), use scenery to plot out a fake safe zone. Often times this is between two vines, or so on. Go between those two vines, slice the enemy, rinse and repeat until you're comfortable with the pattern.
After you've completed at least one stage, move left at the very start of the game to skip to a certain point.
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destructoid's previous coverage: Volgarr the Viking