Why would you want to get eaten whole by a giant, flying worm-thing? Because you beat your friend for that honour: that’s why.
Let us explain.
Nidhogg places you against another human or AI opponent with only a sword and your wits to defend yourself.
The objective is to gradually push back your competitor, progressing through a series of screens until your victory is hailed by a cheering crowd as you’re gulped down by what is presumably the titular Nidhogg.
Kill your enemy and you will be able to progress a little further until your opponent respawns.
If they kill you, however, it’s their turn to push forward towards to the next screen; so begins the war of attrition that sees ground gradually gained and lost in an epic battle of skill and mental strength.
Nidhogg Review: Counters, Kicks & Sword Throwing
The appeal of Nidhogg lies in its mechanical brilliance. For every move that’s made, there’s a way to counter, and as such, you’ll start to find yourself anticipating your opponents approach and adapting your tactics on the fly to try and best your rival (when you’re playing a human opponent, that is, which is when Nidhogg is at its best).
A wonderfully balanced toolbox of risk and reward tactics is equally an important part of what makes Nidhogg so great as a competitive game.
One sword hit will take you down, so you might find yourself partaking in a patient bout of mind chess as you tentatively look for a gap in your opponent’s defenses, using your expert judgment to parry and disarm your nemesis as they go in for the kill, for example.
Alternatively, you can throw caution to the wind and rush your opponent, attacking them with an aerial kick, or even lobbing your sword across the screen towards them and risk being left defenseless.
If you’re on the offensive, you could even try jumping over your opponent, bypassing them entirely (though you’ll want to watch out for the aforementioned sword throw as you scamper away).
That mix of choosing which tactic is right for the situation (or that your opponent will least expect) and implementing it flawlessly, makes Nidhogg a wonderful blend of technical execution and mental agility.
As a result, Nidhogg is incredibly satisfying when you best your opponent – or at least makes you appreciative when your opponent takes you out with an audacious move – whether you’re gaining a tiny bit of ground, or winning the game outright.
Nidhogg Review: Single Player, Local & Online Multiplayer
As previously hinted, if you want to get the most out of Nidhogg, you’ll unquestionably want to be playing it with friends. The single player mode is a nice edition, but in and of itself, it’s not enough to justify you picking up this game.
As a party game though, you can’t do much better than Nidhogg. The back and forth nature of Nidhogg’s battles provides a set of mini-victories and defeats with which to taunt and be taunted with.
Hence, Nidhogg includes a tournament mode to foster that competitive spirit, allowing you to set up a knock-out competition to play with a group of friends. That’s what Nidhogg was made for.
An online mode is also there. When it worked, it was great, but we have had some problems with lag. Needless to say, when it does lag, Nidhogg is unplayable.
That’s a big issue for what is ostensibly a multiplayer game and we can only hope that other players have better luck than us, because otherwise, you’re not going to be able to unsheathe Nidhogg as often as you’d like to.
Despite being near perfect in a mechanical sense, Nidhogg can quickly become tiring. Don’t get us wrong, a few games with your pal are great, but Nidhogg’s battles are so intense that the game is likely something you’ll want to dip in and out of rather than play for extended sessions.
The game would also benefit from one or two more environments in which to do battle. At is core, Nidhogg is about the purity of its core mechanics, but the variety that more stages would provide would nonetheless be welcome.
Despite reservations about Nidhogg’s longevity and concerns about it’s online mode, when it comes to judging Nidhogg as a local multiplayer game there’s very little to criticise.
Nidhogg is beautifully simple in concept, expertly balanced when it comes to mechanics and, if that’s not enough, has the most satisfying swordplay in any game we can think of.
If you can persuade a few friends to join you, prepare for exhilaration, devastation, kudos, ridicule and one of the best competitive two-player games out there.