Nidhogg is a game that has been wowing the tournament crowds for a little while and now the rest of us get a chance to see what all the fuss is about. A one on one fencing the game, it is a pure test of skill against an opponent much in the same way Street Fighter or IK+ is.
On the service Nidhogg is a simple game. You have to get your fencer to run across the level and reach your opponents end zone. Here you are eaten by the big worm Nidhogg thing and pronounced the winner. In order to do this you need to repeatedly best your enemy as you progress. Starting in the middle of the level you need to kill your opponent and run, after a short time your opponent will respawn and you fight again. If your opponent kills you they can then run the opposite direction in an attempt to regain ground.
There are four levels to fight on which offer different environmental challenges and obstacles to use to your advantage. The castle has rooms and pits, so you can try and force your opponent to jump a pit and land on your sword or stay in a room so they can’t jump over you. The mine has a low ceiling which nullifies the ability to throw the sword or jump over your opponent, The clouds have disappearing ledges and the wilderness has platforms and long grass which allow for more manoeuvring and hiding.
The only stage that doesn’t really work is the cloud stage as it’s just a bit much for your eyes to deal with; it’s also a bit dull compared to the others. The Wilderness reminded us of a 2D version of Bushido Blade which is certainly no bad thing at all.
The fencer has a range of moves and techniques at their disposal. They can roll, cartwheel and jump which can be used to try and sneak past opponents if they have their sword at the wrong height. You can also perform a dive kick which knocks opponents over and makes them drop their sword. When an opponent is on the ground death can be dealt via a swift neck break.
With the sword in hand you can thrust at three different heights. This works in a rock, paper, scissors kind of way and also defends against things like dive kicks depending on where you have the sword set. If you wish you can also throw your sword, however, if it’s parried you then leave yourself open to almost certain death.
These basic moves form the crux of your sword fighting strategy and can be used in a number of different ways in order to best your opponent. If you are feeling super confident you can also disarm your opponent by moving your sword to the correct position at the exact right moment. Get this wrong though and you will find your own sword flying away.
Essentially, this is a two player game and anyone going into it expecting a lengthy single player component will be disappointed. Single player acts as an arcade mode where you continually square off against computer controlled opponents on the games four levels. It’s practice for multiplayer and while a nice distraction it will only last you half an hour or so.
The game uses a bright, 8-bit styled, colour palette to build its world. The colour scheme is garish but somehow seems to work. As a fencer is slain they explode into coloured dots and quickly begin to cover the arena in pixelated blood. It helps to highlight where the choke points are in each level as well as provide some visual flair.
There’s no denying that Nidhogg is an excellent two player experience. It provides the same sort of adrenaline rush as all the best one on one fighting games and the mechanics work really well. However, we can’t help but feel that more could have been done here. There is certainly scope for a roaring Prince of Persia or Defender of the Crown style single player adventure. Even something like taking the Blood Valley (it’s an old, bad, 8 bit game), template and adding the superior gameplay of Nidhogg could work. Another option would be to have more stages. Having just four levels does make the package feel a little sparse. You could have had stages requiring some basic climbing or less footholds etc.
Anyone who plays the game is going to have a great time and this is some of the best multiplayer action around at the minute. However, it could have been much more fleshed out in both single and multiplayer. The mechanics are great; we just hope there’s some further development of the other elements in the future as it could lead to something really special.