Messhof’s Nidhogg was as baffling as it was addictive when it released in 2014. Pixelated figures battled across trippy arenas, competing to see who would be fed to a giant wurm first. No, seriously, that was the premise. And yet, it was fun. It was fun learning the nuances of the combat system, attempting to one-up your opponent. Nidhogg 2 signals the return of that insanity but with a brand new highly-detailed visual style, even more mind-warping arenas and some new weapons to spice up the proceedings. Brutality and the psychedelic have never been married as lovingly and yet uncomfortably as they are in Nidhogg 2.
"The crazy thing is how Nidhogg 2, like the original, takes all of these fundamentals and provides such intense, fast-paced matches."
If you don’t know the drill by now, Nidhogg 2 encourages you to customize your character with some potentially horrifying possibilities, pick up your starting weapon and fight to the death against an opponent across a side-scrolling environment. The controls are simple – you can jump, strike with your weapon and execute more complex moves like sliding (while running, simply hit down), dive kicking (strike while in the air) and throwing your weapon (hold up and the attack button).
Of course, there’s a lot more nuance involved than that. You can change the orientation of your weapon, holding it at head, chest or knee level. This allows you to get the upper hand on an opponent. If both fighters have their weapons at the same level, they’ll deflect each other’s attacks. With some quick flicks, you can change the orientation of your weapon before a strike hits and disarm your opponent. They’re still plenty lethal with their bare fists and jump kicks can also disarm if you’re not careful. The objective is to reach the final screen before your opponent and leap straight into a disgusting wurm’s mouth.
The crazy thing is how Nidhogg 2, like the original, takes all of these fundamentals and provides such intense, fast-paced matches. You could be jockeying for an advantage against your opponent, attempting to find an opening…or you could throw your weapon, slide underneath to trip and stamp his brains out. You could deflect each other’s attacks, disarm each other, roll over your respective weapons, throw them, find more weapons and continue jockeying for supremacy.
"Though the addition of new weapons does lead to more variety in matches, it can be frustrating trying to deal with the bow and arrow while only wielding a melee weapon."
Nidhogg 2 also makes battles intense with its quick respawns. Even if you execute a stunning kill on your foe and make it a few feet, they’ll spawn in front of you with a weapon to continue the duel. It’s fast-paced, frantic and hilariously fun. And though there’s a fair bit of luck involved, like not falling off the edge or piercing an opponent who screws up a dive kick or slide, Nidhogg 2‘s combat is a great mix of strategy and reflexes.
Whether it’s your average or hardcore player, no one will quite know what to make of Nidhogg 2‘s environments. Fancy battling through the inside of a giant wurm? How about on an airship which doubles up as a meat grinder for wurms? There’s also a an active volcano, a winter landscape, a weird forest and so on that provide different hazards, further mixing up the battles. The default single-player mode is Arcade and it challenges you to run through all of its arenas by battling AI opponents. Though it sounds easy, it’s best not to underestimate your foes.
If nothing else, Arcade mode provides a nice introduction to Nidhogg 2‘s arenas and four weapons, which include the returning rapier, bow and arrow (with arrows that can be hilariously deflected if you orient your weapon at the same level), knife and sword. Though the addition of new weapons does lead to more variety in matches, it can be frustrating trying to deal with the bow and arrow while only wielding a melee weapon. Similarly, the sword doesn’t seem to have the speed of either the rapier or knife at times. This kind of skews some matches and takes away from the utter simplicity and skill of the first game, at least while playing Arcade.
"As a party game or one that sees you engaging in complex yet rip-roaring battles online, Nidhogg 2 excels."
The real appeal to Nidhogg 2 is being able to go online and partake in private matches with friends or matchmake with other people (either unranked or unranked). This is where the real mind games begin as each match devolves into play, counter-play, the odd bit of running like a coward and the reverse sweep that’s sure to occur (both in your favour and against it). Nidhogg 2 also boasts a Tournament mode where up to eight players can battle together with a variety of different variables like low gravity, instant death, you name it. Even those who want to play with friends next to them can indulge in some local co-op. Though we didn’t have a chance to try out online play for ourselves, the local battles are a hoot. If net code and matchmaking are good enough, then you’ll get plenty of bang for your buck.
Those seeking more complexity from Nidhogg 2 might be disappointed. There are no complex combos and the single-player content is pretty dry save for Arcade mode. It would have been great to have some different challenges or goals to complete on the side rather than just trying to beat your fastest time. If you’re picking up Nidhogg 2 purely to play against the AI, then it may wear on you fairly quickly.
However, as a party game or one that sees you engaging in complex yet rip-roaring battles online, Nidhogg 2 excels. It has that weird atmosphere and awesomely grotesque art-style that you can’t help but stare at. Its soundtrack ranges from pumping beats to soft tunes, each setting an even stranger tone than the last. The Club is perhaps the best example. Or the strangest. We’re not quite sure yet. If there could be one criticism of the art-style, it’s that sometimes the stages can obstruct your view. This is only somewhat common in the Volcano but definitely noticeable in the final screen of the Club which features the silhouettes of both characters battling.
If you want to waste some time on a fighting game without worrying about combos, mechanics and loot boxes, then Nidhogg 2 might be the game for you. Some balance is still required but it delivers the bizarre action of the first game amped up to 11.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Awesome art style and soundtrack that's both bizarre and compelling, which extends to the crazy character creator. Good amount of customization in local and tournament play. New arenas are varied with their own unique hooks and the additional weapons instill some variety. Combat is as solid as ever.
Bow and arrow can be skewed against melee weapons and the sword doesn't feel as good as other blades. Environmental visuals can be a bit too busy at times, obscuring the action. Not enough single-player content.
Nidhogg 2 may not be as beautifully simple as its predecessor and the art-style and new weapons are an acquired taste. However, the combat, crazy pace of matches and sheer aesthetic makes for great fights, either alone or with friends.
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