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Nidhogg Review

Nidhogg Review

At first glance, it would be easy to confuse Nidhogg, a side-scrolling fighting game from developer Messhof, for an Atari 2600 game. Behind the rudimentary graphics, however, lies a complex game that will test your reflexes, nerves and dexterity more than any triple A title in recent memory.

The aim of the game is simply to get to the end of the level. In order to do this you'll need to defeat your opponent whenever you encounter them along the way. Meanwhile, they're attempting to get past you to their goal. If you’re skilled enough to make it to the other end of the level you are rewarded with applause from some enthusiastic spectators before being devoured by the snake-like beast, Nidhogg.

Each match begins in the middle of the level, on neutral ground. Killing your enemy here puts you on the offensive (signified by a huge arrow with the word 'Go!' on it) and allows you to run past their bloodied corpse. You won't be able to run far though, as your opponent respawns ahead of you after a few seconds. Naturally, if your opponent kills you then they will run past your corpse and it's your turn to go on the defensive. The structure is extremely slick and makes for long, tug-of-war-like matches where the momentum can change at any time.


The main draw to the game however, is the combat. As your character assumes the posture of a fencer, you soon realise Nidhogg's sword fighting is about being patient and waiting for the perfect moment to strike, not rushing in like some wannabe Anakin Skywalker. Despite being controlled by just the directional arrows, a jump button and an attack button, there’s a great deal of depth to the gameplay. By employing various combinations of these buttons, you are able to thrust or throw your sword, do cartwheels, roll, dive-kick, perform leg-sweeps, punch and more.

Tapping the up or down arrows causes your character to switch between holding his sword in a high, medium or low position. This mechanic is the core of Nidhogg's combat; you'll have to avoid your opponent's sword when attacking in order to land a hit, or position your sword in the way to block your opponent's jabs. If you time your block just right, you'll deflect the attack and disarm your opponent, giving you an obvious advantage.


Having all these options means that it can take a while to master the controls, despite their apparent simplicity - it doesn’t help that the game’s pace is blisteringly fast. Once you’ve got to grips with the controls however, the game is nothing short of exhilarating. A typical encounter might involve you throwing your sword at your opponent, which they block, leaving you sword-less. You then duck to stay under their sword, and sweep their leg, allowing you to pounce on their body and snap their neck. All of this happens in roughly two seconds, and only gives you a small amount of time to breathe before you run into your enemy again.

Nidhogg is best played against friends, but there is a single player component to the game. In this mode, you must defeat 12 AI opponents, one after the other. There's no save function, so the challenge is defeating them as fast as possible - which will take around 40 minutes for a beginner. The AI is quite competent, and working through this single-player mode is a good way to prepare for real competition, but there are ways to exploit the AI that kill the difficulty. The game supports local multiplayer, which makes for some very competitive fun, as well as online matchmaking. Unfortunately, due to the game’s speed, online matches sometimes end up being biased in favour of the host. Other game variants include a genius twist that causes your thrown swords to boomerang back towards you.


The game’s visuals are very primitive, making use of basic pixel art that looks like it came straight from the 70s. The only thing that might tip you off that these blocky characters don’t belong on an Atari 2600 is their incredibly smooth animation. There are four maps in the game, each of which have a distinctive look, and are soon colourfully painted in the blood of the two fighters. The game’s soundtrack, provided by electronic producer Daedelus, is a glorious, psychedelic delight that adds to the intensity of the combat and completely fits with the equally trippy visuals.

I’m not normally a fan of fighting games, but Nidhogg’s simple controls and lightning-fast gameplay is perfect for those who, like myself, find the complex systems of most fighting games to be intimidating. Due to the short length of the single-player, you might want to stay away if you plan to play alone, but with its extremely responsive controls, lightning-fast pace, and easy to learn combat, Nidhogg is one of the most enjoyable and competitive local multiplayer games on the market.

8.00/10 8


This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

You might want to stay away if you plan to play alone, but with its extremely responsive controls, lightning-fast pace, and easy-to-learn combat, Nidhogg is one of the most enjoyable and competitive local multiplayer games on the market.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Matt Girdler

Matt Girdler

Staff Writer

When he's not hunched over a computer programming, Matt can be found hunched over a computer playing and writing about video games.

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