Most fighting games are about hitting the other guy until his life is all gone, which is the established norm that could use some tweaking. Adding some mobility though makes it more dynamic and unpredictable, which is what has been done to this game. With more room to run around and a different goal from just killing your opponent while having infinite llives, this game was designed for tons of multiplayer fun.
Nidhogg is a game that was named after a serpentine creature of Norse mythology. It features frantic fencing between two duelists. The goal is to reach the exit at the end of the final screen on the other side while preventing the other guy from stopping you from doing so. It’s like a swordfighting version of tug-of-war wherein players use speed, timing, and agility to either kill or run away from each other. This game has been out for quite a while as a much-anticipated indie project by Messhof, a duo of game developers who have made many other titles like Flywrench, Scratch Race, Poocuzzi, and so on.
Both characters are of equal footing, so they have the same weapons and capabilities to fight with. There is no unfair advantage to start with, so victory is wholly reliant on the playing skill and wit. Aside from fencing and fisticuffs, the characters are capable of acrobatics to outwit and outmaneuver. This makes for manic gameplay that goes all over the place, and builds up tension when it does momentarily slow down. You can attack high or low, and you must respond to your opponent’s attacks accordingly within milliseconds, so reflexes must be sharp to play this game.
The game prominently features visuals that hark back to the days of the Atari 2600, when colors and resolutions were very limited and gaming was all about having an active imagination while playing. Some may feel that the indie game obsession with retro-style graphics tends to get overboard at times, and this game may be a tad too far. However, it does emphasize the depth of gameplay by shifting the players’ attention away from aesthetics. But then again, some do like the ultra-pixelated goodness. As for the aural experience, the unusual but fitting music was composed by the indie producer Daedalus, who is known for his unique mix of electronica and baroque.
Most of the gameplay quality is down to the controls, which is basically movement and two buttons, one for attacking and one for jumping. Players of old-school games should be familiar enough with these controls, and you can do a ton of actions with them like divekicks, wall-jumps, sweeps, rolls, and neck-breaking when the opponent is down. The responsiveness of the controls lets you time your attacks precisely, which is important here since the action in Nidhogg can go pretty fast, whether you’re up against a human opponent in local or online multiplayer, or AI opponents one after another in singleplayer.
There are four levels available, namely Castle, Clouds, Mines, and Wilds. Each have their own characteristics that make them more challenging to deal with, like in Clouds wherein it’s hard to see stuff and you can fall through the bridges when you stand on them for too long, or in the Mines where there are conveyor belts leading to gaps for you to fall in, and so on. You’re not only fighting against your opponent, but also the terrain that will certainly see you make mistakes.
When a player gets to the final screen, an audience applauds you and you run towards the very edge. A giant flying worm then swoops in and eats the winner, hence the name of the game. Nidhogg is derived from Níðhöggr, which translates into Malice Striker. Not only does that sound like a great name for a metal band, but it’s also looks badass as it flies in to swallow you whole when you win, which is funny since the Nidhogg from mythology chews on criminals and adulterers.
For $10, there is much fun to be had here, especially if you have friends to take turns with in playing against each other. Unfortunately, with only four levels to play in and the gameplay not going beyond the 1-on-1 deathmatch (with some variations on multiplayer), it may not truly be worth the ten bucks. If you do intend to get this, then you may want to wait for a sale, and that’s only if you’re prepared to throw down with other players.
There’s a free parody version of Nidhogg called Eggnogg that works on the same premise, so you may settle for that if you’re not willing to shelf out the money.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 8.5/10