The original Nidhogg was a fencing party game that was simple in its design, and was the reason it was so easy to pick up and play for most. The sequel hopes to capitalize on that simplicity but also move it forward with some new features and a new art-style.
While Nidhogg 2 doesn’t come with a normal story mode, players take on the role of a fighter who is to be sacrificed by a giant sky worm. In order to receive the honour of getting eaten by said sky worm, players must race to the end of the map while taking on fellow fighters who stand in their way. There is no explanation of why this happens for the first dozen times seeing this grotesque monster come out from the sky and eat you adds a bit of shock and confusion – especially when you see the word “Winner” appear at the top of the screen.
Then again, who needs story when the gameplay is where it’s at. The game gives players several different modes, from an Arcade where you compete for the fastest time, Local Multiplayer where you can go one on one or fight in a tournament with multiple friends, or go online.
In each mode players are placed in the middle of a side-scrolling map and must make it to the other side to get eaten by the already mentioned sky worm. Once a player has killed the other, they are able to move forward in the stage until the reach the end. The other player must then successfully kill the other player in order for their chance to gain lost ground and move to the end of their stage. It’s like a game of tug-of-war only with pointy-things and blood.
In actual combat, players must try to stab or slice their opponent with their given weapon. Players can position their sword to block or aim their strike for a quick one-hit-kill. It sounds simple, and it really is, but there is enough advanced techniques that can be easily picked up that will help you win your battles, including kicking the weapon out of the opponent hands, throwing your weapon for a distance kill, deflecting or moving in a way that will make your opponent drop their sword, not to mention slides and jumping strikes.
The results of which is a fighter with more moments of excitement than I care to admit. There had been plenty of times where a simple deflect made me actually shout in joy, and times where a miscalculated throw made me swear so loudly that it woke the neighbours. If this is my experience in Arcade, then I can’t wait to see what Online brings to the table when the game launches.
A big problem that I have with the game is the choice of weapons. Unlike the original, Nidhogg 2 gives you more than just a rapier to fight with, the game also includes a Claymore which only gives you a high and low stance, a knife which is fast but lacks range, and finally; a bow and arrows which gives a mid and ducking stance attacks. The weapons seem to be balanced out for the most part, with arrows being able to be completely deflected and shot back, Claymores likely disarming opponents who block the strike, and Knives being so quick it’s hard to keep track of.
The problem with the weapons is that there doesn’t seem to be a method or routine on how you’re given these items. I could be missing this altogether but it does become frustrating when all you need a rapier when you spawn to get that quick kill and get given a bow and arrow which takes time to fire.
The grotesque appearance almost offers an 90’s Interplay feel, more specifically Clayfighters or Earthworm Jim. The characters look deformed and almost claylike with paint-like blood that spill over the edge of the stage, while the levels which features a burning castle, a meat factory, the inside of a monster complete with bowel systems, and a rainbow, all give off that 90’s cartoon gross out humour that was popular on Nickelodeon. While the overall appearance looks great, I found it did take away from the game in general. Then again, a giant Sky Worm eating you counting as a Win didn’t help.
Still, Nidhogg 2 didn’t lose the original’s simplicity, making it a great party fighter that anyone can pick up and play.