Multiplayer indie games seem to be all the rage recently and it's easy to see why with games as fun and unique as Nidhogg. Although it does have its shortcomings, Nidhogg delivers some fierce battles that will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout every match.
Nidhogg is played by two teams of different coloured warriors who must fight each other in order to reach the end of the stage. Only one warrior from each team is on screen at a time and once one dies another will soon take its place. Each team has an unlimited number of warriors so there's no need to worry about running out. One team tries to make it to the far left of the stage while the other team's goal is to the far right. This feature creates a constant tug-of-war dynamic which makes every battle exhilarating. Only the player who has last killed an opponent can progress so combat cannot be completely avoided. Once you kill an opponent it's time to make a run for it so you can get as far as you can before your opponent stops you. If you manage to make it to your goal then the mighty serpent Nidhogg will quickly fly in to eat you. Sweet victory!
The controls are very simple as players can run around, jump, and attack. Attacking is done with only one button but there are many moves players can pull off. Players can change stances by tapping up and down which not only allows for some offensive and defensive strategy but also lets you knock your opponent's sword away by changing to a stance that intercepts their weapon. You can tap left or right to fence and the attack button to lunge. If your sword touches your opponent then you can watch their pixelated blood spray and paint the floor with whatever colour they are. You can throw your sword by holding up and pushing attack although it is a risky move as you'll sacrifice your sword for a chance to snag your opponent. Swordless warriors can punch their opponents which isn't very effective so it's best to pick up a sword that's lying on the ground. There are a few melee moves that can be performed with or without a sword which include sweeping your opponent's legs and dive-kicking by jumping and attacking. These moves will make your enemy fall to the ground where you can then rip out their heart. All of these moves are performed intuitively and fluidly which makes for some very solid gameplay.
The graphics in Nidhogg are a notch above an Atari 2600 game with its monochromatically coloured characters and simplistic environments. The warriors are animated very smoothly and look great as they run, jump, and combat their way to victory. The soundtrack is fantastic with a different track for each arena that suits it well. Sound effects are also well done as clashing of swords, death screams, and even Nidhogg crunching down on your bones is satisfying. However, by default the music is way too loud and drowns out the sound effects but thankfully this can be remedied in the options menu.
Multiplayer is the main focus of Nidhogg and you can battle online or locally. Local multiplayer battles are a ton of fun as being in the same room as your opponent adds a layer of enjoyment. Local tournaments can be set up for up to eight players where two players face off at a time with elimination rules in order to see who reigns supreme. Battling online is also a lot of fun although it's not as populated as you would hope and I found quite a few players would quit before I can win. Online is probably best enjoyed with friends that you can trust will fight to the end. There are plenty of options that help make multiplayer matches feel fresh and custom-tailored. These options include setting a time limit (which is a good idea since matches can last a very long time), enabling or disabling certain moves, and many quirky options like lowering the gravity and forcing players to skip instead of walk. It's nice to see variations like this although the basics of the game still remain the same.
Single player is restricted to one time attack mode where you battle a series of computer controlled opponents in as little time as you can. This has very limited appeal as most players will play through once and be satisfied although more hardcore players will try to beat their own score. It's disappointing that not much thought has been put in to diversify the single player experience.
Although Nidhogg is great fun, its content is somewhat lacking. There are only four stages to battle in and these environments start to become repetitive after playing the game for about an hour. No matter how you play Nidhogg, the fact that the game is quite intense while also limited in content makes it difficult to enjoy for long play sessions. Most gamers will exhaust their enthusiasm after a handful of matches. Therefore, Nidhogg is probably best enjoyed in small doses.
Nidhogg features some of the most unique and well executed multiplayer mechanics yet its shortage of content leaves a lot to be desired. Although severely lacking in the single player department, you're bound to have a great time whether you play with friends on the couch or online, but the fun may not last as long as you would hope.
- + Great mix of action packed combat and tug-of-war mechanics make battles intense
- + Simple and intuitive controls
- + Both online and local multiplayer are super fun
- - Limited single player content
- - Only four arenas to battle in
- - Feels exhausting and repetitious after playing for a while