Nidhogg 2 Review (PC)
When Nidhogg first came out a few years ago, it captured the video game world by storm. Almost overnight, this little game about swordfighting became a cult sensation, with players developing deep strategies for what looked to be a rather rudimentary fighting game. Now three years later, Messhof is back with a bigger, bolder, and better-looking sequel. Nidhogg 2 captures everything that was great about the first game, and ratchets the cool and fun factors up to eleven.
At the core of Nidhogg 2, the object is to fend off your opponent by any means necessary to run across the stage's six screens in order to win the match. Killing your foe doesn't score you any points. It merely gives you a window with which to run past the body in an effort to gain some ground. Nidhogg's basic premise has a lot in common with tug of war, but instead of yanking on a rope, you're wielding a pointed weapon, and instead of trying to drag your opponent towards you, you're trying to skip by to the next environment. The concept is incredibly easy to grasp, and makes Nidhogg 2 a great game for players of all skill levels. All you need is two controllers and to know that one button jumps and one button attacks. From there, matches in Nidhogg often descend into chaotic, raucous battles that are just as fun to lose as they are to win.
Where the original Nidhogg left much to be desired in the presentation department, Messhof has used the years between to focus on giving the sequel much more visual personality. The blocky, pixelated world has been replaced with a much more detailed universe. Characters look straight out of ClayFighter, with their uniquely shaped bodies and attire (all of which is customizable before every match), and the stages are filled with some fantastic detail and lore that builds up the world of Nidhogg to something more than we ever thought it was before.
The best part of all these graphic upgrades is being able to see your avatar react and emote to the battle on screen. Punishing death blows result in some humorous grimaces, while being the one to put the pointy end of a sword through a foe will leave your character smiling. Though there aren't a fantastic amount of options for dressing your male or female swordfighter, there are more than enough combinations possible to keep things interesting. This won't typically come in handy until you start hosting some local multiplayer bouts with up to eight people, but knowing that no two characters will be the same definitely makes the game a bit more personalized.
The stage maps are also much more intricate and detailed, which gives Nidhogg 2 so much more flavor than its predecessor. The real star of the first game was the multiplayer combat, and while that's still true here, the amount of world-building that went into this sequel's stages certainly vie for more of your attention. There are fishing vessels that are filled with the captured and eviscerated Nidhoggs, which are apparently also a food source in this world. You'll travel through a Nidhogg's insides, dueling from the mouth through the anus. There will be times when you're playing that you'll want to take in all that glorious detail, only to find yourself on the business end of a blade, but it'll be worth it for the laughs elicited by all the events.
That's true of Nidhogg 2 through and through. This is a competitive multiplayer game that's driven not just by the clever strategies and funny characters, but by the moments it creates for your and your friends. While you can play online in a one-on-one scenario, Nidhogg 2 is still focused on the local multiplayer experience. It's much more fun to duel it out with a few friends in the same room than it is to play just against one friend online. The single-player, such as it is, is over in less time than it takes to watch a sitcom on Netflix. Nidhogg 2's strength, much like the first, comes from the battles you'll have with your friends over and over, as well as failing or succeeding right in front of them.
Nidhogg 2 is a game you can quickly lose an afternoon to, and you won't mind one bit. Few games are as friendly to players as all skill levels, while still providing intense matches and a few good laughs. Don't let the simple controls fool you. There's a lot of strategy to devise, particularly when you get continually matched up against your closest pals. The humor is delightful, and sometimes a little gross, but the cartoonish style makes it all work in tandem with the swordplay.
This review is based on a download of Nidhogg 2 provided by the publisher for PC.