Looking back on when I laid my eyes upon the first Nidhogg, I remember being very skeptical. I thought, “How could such a simple game be so fun?” After playing it, it seemed that this set of simple concepts immediately became a staple for the genre. Nidhogg 2 is a true battle among comrades and truly improves upon what the original game had, even if there are some major differences that make the game seem ever slightly more complicated.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about the Nidhogg games is the feeling of competition you get when battling with your friends or any online opponent. The goal of the game isn’t very complex; you must attempt to run to your side of the screen to win all the while avoiding your opponent’s attacks. When you get a kill, you are allowed to progress, and if the enemy kills you, they are allowed to progress. You and your opponent will respawn shortly after each death, so you can chase them down until you are able to reach victory (or not). Ultimately, it’s a fun way to spend some time with your friends and provides the room with a sense of hype that’s unrivaled to most other games.
When you’re in battle, you’ll notice seven small squares on the top of your HUD. These squares represent every screen in the game. You and your opponent start in the middle square, and depending on where you spawn, your aim is to get to the far side of the map. Where things get tricky, though, is that your opponent will constantly be on the offense if you have control over the screen’s camera. If you’ve never played Nidhogg before, you can jump, stab, duck, roll, throw your weapon, and move your rapier between three planes of height. The three different stances allow you to attack your opponent in different places, as well as defend against the positions that your opponent is attacking. Because of this, the amount of strategy and planning is intense, and you always have to be on the ready for when your opponent strikes. If you’re familiar with fighting games, Nidhogg will seem like a fresh and new take on the genre’s conventions, and it really does work quite well. While the game is still fairly simple, there are a few things that really separate the sequel from the first game.
One of the absolute coolest thing about Nidhogg 2 in comparison to the first game is the addition of some new weapons. The rapier is still here in full force, but now we have a heavy two-handed sword, a dagger, and a bow thrown into the mix. Of course, if you are unarmed, you can still punch and kick your opponent to death. The sword is a weapon that can only use the high and low stances, swinging from the bottom up or from the top down. Generally, swinging from the bottom will typically result in your opponent’s sword being thrown out of his hand. The dagger is essentially just a short version of the rapier. The bow is a truly unique weapon; you can still throw it, but you can only shoot from the middle and lower planes. Additionally, you can shoot while in the air, but the major drawback of the bow is that it takes a bit longer to input a command than the swipe of a sword, for example.
The one problem with all of these new weapon styles is a very unfortunate one: balance. I feel that adding these new weapons throws off a bit of the balance that the original game provided. It’s not as much of a game of skill in a sense because you are stuck worrying about which weapon you are going to spawn with. This isn’t all bad though, because it does add quite a bit of variety, but it is a problem nonetheless. Sometimes you can laugh it off when you spawn in with a bow instead of a sword, but other times it can be very frustrating. Fortunately, if you’re playing in local multiplayer, you can change which weapons you want available to avoid the problem entirely, which is a big plus.
Another really neat addition to Nidhogg 2 is the inclusion of a tournament mode. In this mode, you can have up to 8 players compete in a bracketed tournament to see who comes out on top. Other than that, the game is the same, but I can see myself having tons of fun with this feature in the future. Unfortunately, this mode is only available via local multiplayer, but it certainly doesn’t detract from the game at all.
It’s time to address the elephant in the room: the art style. My biggest problem with Nidhogg 2 right off the bat was the new art direction. I thought it looked clunky and gross when I first watched the trailer. Upon playing the game, I quickly started to admire the deep and detailed visuals that made up each of the varied stages. I’ll admit that the characters seem kind of goofy and ugly to an extent, but I think the artstyle actually provides a more laid back feeling to the game, similar to how Super Smash Bros. compares to games like Street Fighter. With that being said though, each character has several different customization options for clothing, hair, and the like. I can hide some of the bulky and strange character design choices if I so please.
One thing that didn’t change, though, is the amazing quality of the soundtrack. Every note and every beat has you on edge as you race to the finish, avoiding arrows, daggers, and whatever else your opponent decides to throw at you. Every stage has a different song, and they all fit their respective theme very well. While none of the songs are very deep, the electronic sounds serve as an excellent background drop to accompany the intense feeling of the gameplay.
Simple, yet fun. It has a few kinks, but it generally holds up really well as a goofy, yet intense multiplayer game that you’ll definitely want to play with friends. I wouldn’t recommend playing the game by yourself, so definitely pick it up with a friend for a truly fun experience. I would also consider playing the game in short bursts since I personally found myself tiring of doing the same thing for so long. All in all, the new additions to the game are welcome, but they definitely need a bit of tweaking. While nothing in the game is inherently wrong, some additions feel like a bit of a departure from what is otherwise an excellent game. I like to see bigger and better things from a sequel, but sometimes all a simple game needs is stability and consistency in order to remain at the top. Nidhogg 2 loses some of its simplicity in translation, but it’s still quite an enjoyable time.
Most of my time is dedicated to tearing apart games and movies, then telling you what I think about it. I've been a gamer since birth, practically born with a controller in my hand. I've always spoke my mind, so critique was a natural fit. Twitter: @Jsrf38