Ever want to murder your friend numerous times before volleying yourself into the mouth of a mythological Norse worm? If so, you’re in luck because the follow up to Nidhogg, the aptly titled Nidhogg 2, allows you to do so in glorious and goofy fashion.
If you’re unfamiliar, Nidhogg 2 is a side-scrolling fencing game where two players face off in a bloody, pixelated tug of war with small swords. The ultimate goal is to get to the furthest screen on your side, progressing by running and killing your opponent with a single strike as they stand in your path. If they kill you, the side switches and they attempt to run to the furthest screen on their side.
To pull off successful murders, the mechanics are simple. You can hold your sword in a mid, high, and low position which will block your opponent’s blows, you can throw your sword, and you can do some jumping and sliding acrobatics to to sneak in a blow. It’s simple, elegant, and to the point.
New Hair Do
Nidhogg 2 keeps the shell of it’s predecessor but redresses it and improves upon it. The most noticeable change is clear as soon as the game starts—the art style is drastically different; moving from basic pixel men to hideous clay people that would fit perfectly on a 90s Nickelodeon show. It’s silly and, while it initially may be off putting to some, it quickly grows on you and becomes endearing, making the game teem with a distinct identity that is hard to find among similar arcadey multiplayer experiences. You can even customize your character to some extent, choosing their clothes, hairstyle and color, which makes punching your buddy to the ground and stomping his face into colorful muck all the more satisfying.
The level design has also received a huge upgrade. Moving from four available stages to ten, each of these new venues brings new obstacles and visual panache. There’s a meat processing boat, a rainbow cloud land, a forest with a benevolent tree person, and even a giant worm sphincter. The music itself is a whole other reason to check the game out. You’ll hear everything from wispy, light hearted electronica to more retro leaning chip tunes, and each track fits the environment perfectly, often feeling oddly relaxing in the midst of all the chaos. The soundtrack stands alongside music for recent games like GNOG and Undertale and can easily be listened to on its own.
In terms of gameplay, Nidhogg 2 has the same core mechanics as the original, but it spices them up by adding new weapons. You have the standard fencing sword, but now there’s a broad sword, a throwing knife, and a bow and arrow. The broadsword has a wider attack range and can swing in a strong arc, making it easy to disarm your opponent and then dismember them in a satisfying crunch. The bow shoots arrows (duh), which have a longer initial attack time gives you the benefit of distance, also to be an utter troll to your opponent. The dagger is very small and mostly meant to get a quick throw off since taking on a full sized sword will lead to a quick death. The variety is fun and helps keep each encounter interesting, especially in multiplayer as every time you spawn you come back with a different weapon. If you’re playing with friends, you can also alter how the gameplay and weapons behave since the game has the option to turn on several cheats, ranging anywhere from low gravity jumps and boomerang throws to a hilarious baby mode that forces your characters to crawl at all times.
The game features an arcade style single-player campaign where you can power your way through each of the levels against a computer controlled foe. This mode is fun enough to play one or two times through, and you can always try to beat your best time, but the real point of the game is its multiplayer, specifically local versus. While Nidhogg 2 gives you the option to compete online with random players or against friends, the heart of it is the shared screen battles where you can yell at your tv as you and your friend duke it out from side to side. It’s a fighting game in essence, but the one strike kills and added strategic thinking necessary to anticipate your foe’s next move (that can easily devolve into a satisfyingly humorous standoff), give the game its own identity. It’s also nice to not have to worry about combos and focus strictly on the killing and face stomping.
Given that this game shares such a strong base with its predecessor, it’d be easy to get whether or not this is a sequel or a rehash, but the point is that Nidhogg did what it did perfectly and enjoyably. It was a simple game and concept that was best unadorned and uncluttered with other mechanics, modes, etc. Nidhogg 2 is fully aware of that and instead of changing what already works. It adds more in ways that don’t detract from the core of the game, instead choosing to give it a healthy dose of identity, character and zany atmosphere that will stick with you much longer than bland colored square men in basic environments. It plays beautifully and the quick kills and high tension matches make for a perfect two-player experience.