By: Mike Chen
At first glance, Nidhogg may have you thinking of Pitfall or other early ’80s old-school games. Beneath the surface, however, is a formula that’s elegant and addictive; in fact, it may be the most fun you have with other players this year. Grab your pixelated sword, pump up the bass on your electro soundtrack and get ready to do battle.
Nidhogg begins with a short tutorial on the controls, and it’s really all you need to know. Attack, jump and duck/roll are simple face button presses. The only real nuance comes with sword play. Once you grab a sword by tapping down, you can aim high/medium/low for attack and defense. This works well most of the time, though it lacks a true precision due to assigning the analog stick to digital movements.
Visually, Nidhogg could have been composed in the mid-80s in an era before NES. Yes, these graphics are even more primitive than that. In fact, it’s somewhere above Atari 2600 and below NES, so the chunky pixels may remind older gamers of Commodore 64 games, though the animation is fluid a la the original Prince Of Persia.
Nidhogg‘s score was composed by renowned DJ Daedelus, and it shows. The music fits the frenetic pace of the game, and my only real complaint with it is that you don’t have that many tracks to choose from. In the heat of battle you won’t notice, though, and like the best soundtracks, it’ll pump you up and add to the experience.
Nidhogg is one of the most interesting combinations of games you can find. Take the original 8-bit Ninja Gaiden, build it in Street Fighter one-on-one fighting, stick it on an NFL field, and paint it in Commodore 64 graphics with a wicked techno soundtrack and you’ve got Nidhogg. It’s a one-trick pony, but it’s a hell of a trick.
Here’s the deal: you’re a dude with a sword and you need to get to the finish line several screens away. Your opponent is a dude with a sword who’s going the opposite way. You can kill each other with fisticuffs or sword slashes but the deceased regenerates down the line. Who’s on offense and who’s on defense? It switches based on who won the last encounter, and you’ll know by the big flashing “GO!” arrow pointed above.
Possession can change quickly, making this a frenetic contest. On top of that, you’ve got environmental challenges, such as small corridors or evaporating bridges. Sessions can last literally seconds or they can be a war of attrition that take a good 20 minutes. Most importantly, it’s easy to pick up and fun as hell.
While there’s a short single-player campaign that runs you through various degrees of difficulty and many different environments, this was meant to be played against another person. Both local and online co-op are supported, along with various challenge modes. It’s easy to pick up and put down, and if you’ve got gamers coming over for a party, this is surely going to be both fun to play and watch as a group.
Nidhogg doesn’t try to be anything other than an immediate and intense one-on-one competition. It’s easy to learn and extremely fun to play. If you’re looking for a new competitive game that doesn’t involve FPS multiplayer, you’ve found it.