I never played the original Nidhogg, so going into the sequel, Nidhogg 2, fresh as a daisy was a daunting experience from the word go. I fumbled my way around the game’s simple menus and straight into an arcade level against my first opponent, though not before kitting out my fighter in, er, nothing? I liked the default look, no need to get all fancy.
Prior to playing Nidhogg 2, I had no idea what the game was about. In my mind’s eye, it was about a hog or a pig, and that’s all I had. How very wrong I was…
Nidhogg 2 is a fast and frantic fighting game where one hit means insta-death. I’m not ashamed to say that I spent my first 10 minutes with the game in a state of mild confusion as I pecked at the DualShock 4’s buttons with curiosity. There’s no tutorial to speak of, and the game doesn’t give you any hints as to what to do – though I did later find a ‘How to Play’ section tucked away in the game’s menus. So if you’re going into Nidhogg 2 green, I suggest you at least find the brief guide in the menus.
Once you know what you’re doing, it’s not especially hard to get swinging those swords around. Your goal is to get to the end of a multi-screen stage where you will be eaten by a giant worm. The only problem is that the enemy doesn’t want you to get to the worm; they want to get to your worm. See, you win by getting eaten by a giant worm. To say Nidhogg 2 is peculiar would be an understatement…
As you attempt to run from left to right, you’ll have to face off against your foe with a series of swords and even a bow and arrow. I’ve heard that some of the weapons are new to the sequel, but I can’t really comment on whether they’re an improvement over the original. Sorry…
What I do know is that after I figured out what I was doing and that I could raise my sword into three different positions to attack and defend, I ended up having a blast with the game and couldn’t pull myself away from it. The tactical gameplay is invisible at a glance, but once you start prodding your swords a little further, you find that there are playstyles to master. You can either go in on the attack and start swinging wildly in the hope that you’ll knock your opponent’s sword from their hands so that you can delivery a cold strike, or you can inch forward and play defensively, waiting for your opponent to make the first fatal move. It’s tense as hell and I roared the house down when I was dealt a last-minute thrashing by the increasingly difficult A.I.
The game’s single-player takes you through ten stages against increasingly difficult enemies. The first level is a doddle and I managed to blag my way through it after a few minutes of awkwardly jabbing the air. The later stages, however, will have you howling with anger as the A.I becomes trickier and adopts some sneaky tactics in order to push you back. It’s infuriating yet oddly exhilarating and it begs for “one more go” after each defeat.
The real star of Nidhogg 2 is in its multiplayer; this is where lifelong friendships come to die. Taking on a mate, or in my case, the Mrs, in a local match is nothing short of mayhem. It’s kind of like when you played Smash Bros with your mates as a kid, but this time there are no cute, whimsical characters floating around, but instead these ugly, deformed humanoid things that squelch disgustingly when they die. The real comparison, though, is in the dead legs, slaps around the head, and general name-calling amongst local players during a heated game that could take anywhere between one and 20 minutes, depending on how fortune is favouring you. No, really, we had one game that was over within a couple of minutes thanks to my cheap-arse tactics, yet we then fought a furious, swashbuckling battle that lasted just over 25 minutes. It’s fair to say, then, that we were exhausted.
There’s an online multiplayer mode, too, where you can invite an online friend to play, or you can just match up against a stranger. I had a few goes of the online, but in all honesty I think Nidhogg 2 is a much better local game that needs to be played with a group of friends. Winner stays on, anyone?
Nidhogg 2 is a weird little thing in how it looks. The stages are intricately designed with lots going on in the background as well as environmental hazards that you need to be aware of. You’re looking at a retro-style 2D sidescrolling brawler here, and if I’m honest, it’s a damn ugly game – but that’s all part of its grotesque charm. It’s not going for graphics, it’s going for fast, furious, and fun gameplay – and it delivers it in buckets of yucky guts.
Nidhogg 2 PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8.5/10
Nidhogg 2 is insane, but I say that in the best possible way. Simple controls with simple goals make Nidhogg 2 an easy one to recommend. There’s a decent single-player challenge, though it’s not all that long, and the multiplayer will keep you and your mates challenging each other to duels to the death for a long while to come.
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