It’s rare that a game truly encapsulates the mantra “Keep it Simple, Stupid”, fortunately, Nidhogg is one such game. Don’t let it’s simplistic retro art style throw you off, for all of it’s simplicity in the aesthetics departmenr, Nidhogg is one deep and lovely game.
First off, the main appeal of the game: The combat. Being a simple 2D platformer, you’d expect for me to just say there’s 2 buttons to attack, wouldn’t you? Well… technically that’s correct, but its the manner in which Nighogg combines these buttons along with your analogue stick that truly makes the combat come alive.
You see, whilst there’s only two buttons to master (A to jump and X to punch/slash with your sword) Nidhogg has multiple ways to chain these buttons together and give them different uses depending on the context of your movement. Jump and pressing X? Why not dive kick to knock the opponent back. Holding a sword? Pressing up on the analogue stick will easily change it’s position, allowing you to disarm hostile attackers with relative ease. Opponent running away? Just press up and x at the same time to throw your sword at them.
These devilishly simple but hard to master techniques wouldn’t be as fun as they are if it were not for the fantastic presentation for such a simplistic game. Every death has a fantastic new and varied scream, truly helping to push forward the narrative that these two fighters are well and truly fighting to the death with everything they have. The amount of gore present is also insane, with each death of your character sending hundreds of blood particles across the stage, making for a truly colourful level once you and your opponent have died plenty of times.
The objective of Nidhogg is simple. Kill your opponent, and then proceed to continue killing (or avoiding) them rushing to their side of the screen. Being player one, you start on the left, so it’s up to you to kill the AI, and rush to the right. The second the other player gets a kill in on you though it’s time to hunt them down, as it’s now their chance to run three scenes to the left. This back and forth is truly amazing, and helps for the game to truly feel alive, especially when you’re hunting somebody down and worrying you’ll fail to successfully counter their attack the next time you encounter them.
But it’s the skill and the feeling of ecstasy from triumphing over your opponents that truly sets Nidhogg apart from other indie games on the market. You see, the plethora of different combinations you can pull of in fighting your opponent never ceases to astound me, especially when an AI character manages to pull off a combo you would have never dreamed of. I’d be constantly on the edge of my seat, wondering whether I’d get the upper hand over my opponent, or him, me. It’s nail biting stuff, but extremely gratifying when played, and hugely satisfying once you finish the games campaign against it’s ever increasing difficult AI.
So overall, I’m thoroughly impressed by Nighogg and it’s attention to detail. Don’t get me wrong, the game’s short, with it’s $15 asking price being a bit much in my opinion, despite how much replayability there is. If you ever find the game in a sale, get it in a heartbeat, you will not be disappointed.