I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I was given Nidhogg 2 for review. I had never heard the term, much less knew there was a series of video games with the name. “What’s a fucking Nidhogg?” Is all I could think honestly. After a few internet searches, I learned that a Nidhogg is a serpent of Norse mythology that eats the roots of the world tree, Yggdrasil. That does not have anything to do with what you will actually be doing in the game. Sure, you will see a Nidhogg. You’ll even be running for your life to be eaten by one during every level, but I couldn’t really see many Norse connections during my time with Nidhogg 2. What I did see was how the competitive multiplayer gaming took centre stage in this insane, unique, and unpredictable experience.
Tug of war! The video game
Indie game developer Messhof has created something that is best described as unique and unforgettable. Nidhogg 2 pits two players against each other in a tug of war battle of wits and reflexes. The entire object of the game is to face off with your opponent in a duel, fencing style, with one of two swords, a dagger, or a crossbow. The weapon you hold can change each time you die. You will die a lot! Once you slay your foe, you are to run as fast as you can to the end of the side-scrolling arena. The direction you run (left or right) depends on whether you’re player one or player two. Your aim is to be the first eaten by the legendary Nidhogg by running, jumping, slashing, shooting, and stomping your way past your opponent – who will re-spawn infinitely.
Matches in Nidhogg 2 are completely unpredictable. You just never know how things are going to turn out no matter how good you get at the game. Victory is never a sure thing and, if you don’t set a timer during matches, they can literally go on forever. Sometimes death will manage to find you every five seconds as you and your opponent cut each other down quickly and relentlessly. Other times you will find yourself running like a murderous track star on a glorious rampage only to be slain right before reaching the end. Then, your opponent will take away all the ground you gained. It is a bizarrely addicting game of tug of war.
It’s ugly pretty
It is a good thing the game is so much fun because I can’t say that Nidhogg 2 is very nice to look at. The game is just plain ugly to me. It reminded me of a Sega Genesis game with a really awful art direction. Everything is just grungy and not particularly pleasant to look at. The excellent gameplay and controls will quickly make you forget about it though. You will be much more concerned about running to the Nidhogg and wondering why the hell the game spawned you with the useless crossbow again than you will be about taking in the sights. Even though I do describe the visuals as ugly, I do think they are fitting for the game. There is just something comical about seeing your little sludge puppet being impaled or stomped to death in Nidhogg 2‘s wacky venues. The comical effect is increased when you factor in the upbeat, well-composed soundtrack that plays while all the chaos unfolds.
As you dance this ballet of death, you will have multiple weapons at your disposal. There’s the good all-around weapon, the rapier (back from the first game). The slower to wield, broadsword. A small dagger. The mostly useless crossbow and your good ole fists/feet. You have three options for attacking. High, low, and to the middle. You can block incoming attacks by matching the attack of your opponent and you can also throw your weapon across the screen. Throwing your weapon is a great way to infuriate your victim as they are dashing for the exit. Options are available that allow you to control what weapons spawn and in what order. Nidhogg 2 presents an extremely simple formula that is very hard to master. It’s very easy to impale yourself on your opponent’s weapon if you make one wrong misstep, but, even when committing accidental suicide, frustration will be curbed by laughter. When I was learning the ropes, it was the game’s humour that kept me on track even when I was dying every few moments.
Local matches are the best, but the online is great too!
The game offers players local matches, an online mode, and a single player arcade mode. However, as long as you pick up the controls quickly, this arcade mode can be completed in under half an hour. There isn’t any form of a tutorial, so I found the arcade mode served as a wonderful training ground. Multiplayer is where the real fun is at though. Playing against random strangers and online friends is great fun and playing local matches is even better. I feel like the game truly shined when I played local matches against people that I could see. Witnessing their reactions, which were always hilarious, added another enjoyable layer into this already delightful experience. I will admit that the game’s longevity isn’t that great to me. I came, I killed, I laughed, and I died. Then I moved on to the next thing. Nidhogg 2 is a very unique title that I would recommend to any gamer. It isn’t very expensive, so I suggest you give it a go if you’re looking for something fresh.
Note: A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
- Unique and fun gameplay experience
- Nice soundtrack
- Hilarious to play with friends
- Unattractive art direction
- Not highly replayable