Sometimes the simplest organism in nature is the strongest. Simplicity breeds strength, something that 2014’s Nidhogg had plenty of when it first launched. The concept was simple enough: A player would control an elegant and minimalistic collection of pixels that resembled a pixel, and they’d fence their way to victory by killing the foe across multiple screens until they finally reached the finish line.
Sort of like rugby then, but with rapiers instead. Nidhogg’s simple design hid a devious layer of depth though, one where players jockeyed for optimal spacing between the thrusts of their sword and the perfect timing to switch between a quick parry and a pinpoint strike to the head. It was part of the charm, a game which at first glance didn’t look exactly complex but had a deep world worth exploring.
Nidhgg 2 doesn’t stray too far from that ethos, instead offering enhancements to the core formula while keeping any superfluous content out of the final package. The end result? A Nidhogg sequel that plays better and looks wonderfully grotesque thanks to a quirky new art style that creates a tangible benefit for the product.
It’s a sequel that offers more of the same, a feature that would be dismissed in any other game but does wonders for Nidhogg 2. More weapons. More colour. More violence, set against some of the most hideously beautiful art ever rendered. Every sequel worth its salt throws a few visual upgrades into the mix, a standard feature that’s taken for granted but is an intrinsic feature that complements Nidhogg 2’s minimalistic gameplay.
Here is a world that unfolds like a clown car crash, as you find yourself giggling at the grotesque carnage that unfolds around you. It does wonders for the speed and attitude of Nidhogg 2’s gameplay, giving eagle-eyed players that extra edge in understanding their opponents and reacting to the minutiae of their spacing on any given stage and how they’ll attack you.
I couldn’t get enough of these visuals in Nidhogg 2. They’re charming, ghastly and having the chance to stomp Geoff’s digital skull into a gooey mix of pink pixels never got old. There’s a fine line between the minimalism of the first Nidhogg and its retro-repulsive visuals in the sequel that harkens back to an age of blast-processing and a penis measuring contest of who had the most bits in the house at any given time.
Nidhogg 2’s biggest wrench that it throws into its duelling gameplay comes in the form of weapons this time around. While you’ve still got access to the elegant riposte of a rapier in a scrap, you’ve also got a chance to fling arrows with a bow, go for a quick kill with a dagger and unleash your inner barbarian with a mighty broadsword.
Each weapon comes with subtle pros and cons, creating a delicate balance that delivers all manner of macabre violence to the battlefield. To Nidhogg 2’s credit, you’ll rarely find yourself favouring one weapon over the other in any given showdown as each weapon does retain a subtle similarity that can be used with its perfected system of stances. Tag in dive kicks, rolls and just going for broke by chucking your weapon at the opposition and Nidhogg 2 has a combat system which can put most fighting games to shame with how it uses so little to do so much.
All this gushing, for a game that can be clocked in as little as twenty minutes in a single session. Nidhogg 2’s real meat and bones doesn’t lie within its single-player, but rather through its online duelling in much the same manner that the first game did. There’s a sadistic satisfaction to using a longsword to cleave your opponent into bloody building blocks, coupled with a bizarre art style that I just can’t get enough of in this gruesomely gorgeous sequel that makes me want to murder my friends for hours on end.
Last Updated: August 14, 2017
Nidhogg 2 is a brutally bizarre tug of war with swords, an attractive grim spectacle of steel and blood that just so happens to be one of the most addictive experiences of the year. It’s a bigger take on the magnificent original game, while avoiding feature bloat as it retains its simple charm with its ghastly and delightful new art direction.