Nid­hogg 2

Stabby se­quel doesn’t quite go the whole ’hogg

Games Master - - Contents -

The ques­tion is, is it pos­si­ble to im­prove on ab­so­lute perfection? The an­swer: er, maybe not.

“The are­nas look fan­tas­tic: you fight on top of rain­bows and in a club with spiked disco balls”

The first game was one of the best ti­tles of 2014. It was a side-scrolling sword fight­ing game with sim­ple vi­su­als and me­chan­ics: you held your rapier in one of three stances (low, medium, or high), and tried to stab your op­po­nent while block­ing their strikes. You could throw your weapon, roll, jump, and that was about it. Play­ing with a friend – or even bet­ter, a group of friends – was a tense test of skill. Nid­hogg 2 rings the changes, adding more weapons, more gore, and a com­pletely new art style.

The good news is that the stream­lined stab­bing of Nid­hogg 2 re­turns largely un­touched. This is still a game about ner­vously duk­ing it out with a friend or an on­line ran­dom, feint­ing and switch­ing stances un­til you get the bet­ter of them. Then, when they’re respawn­ing, you leg it to the edge of the screen, which takes you to the next sec­tion of the level. Run far enough into your op­po­nent’s ter­ri­tory and you’ll be eaten by a gi­ant worm (which con­sti­tutes a vic­tory, ap­par­ently).

Mind over splat­ter

It’s full of mind games. If you parry at the right mo­ment, your op­po­nent will drop their sword, giv­ing you an easy stab. Should you press for­ward and leave your­self ex­posed or wait for them to make a mis­take? That con­stant to-and-fro keeps us glued to the screen.

When we gather a group of friends it’s as fun, and as tense, as the first game, and throws up mo­ment af­ter mo­ment of magic. In one, our friend stabs us and sprints for­ward, jump­ing over our respawn­ing body. As he’s about to reach the edge of the screen we lob our sword, send­ing it spin­ning through the air. It im­pales his head just in time. We whoop, he sighs. So far, so Nid­hogg.

Sadly, the new weapons, which you’ll ran­domly spawn with, don’t add much. The bow feels out of place, en­cour­ag­ing you to fight from afar. There’s a huge sword that only has two stances (up­per and lower), so there’s no way to block a mid­dle thrust. The most fun we have is still with the reg­u­lar rapier, match­ing up against an op­po­nent with the same weapon and skill set.

The biggest change is the art style. Nid­hogg’s char­ac­ters were stick men, its lev­els rough and blocky, but the se­quel is a car­toon­ish mish-mash of ideas, some good, some bad. The are­nas are fan­tas­tic. You fight on top of rain­bows, in­side the ridged stom­ach of a gi­ant worm, and in a club with pump­ing bass and spiked disco balls. They’re more var­ied than the orig­i­nal’s with­out dis­tract­ing from the ac­tion. But the char­ac­ters are a mis­step: troll-like crea­tures that look as if they’ve been crudely shaped from clay and have never held a sword in their life. You can cus­tomise their hair­styles and out­fits but you’ll still have the same goo­gly eyes start­ing back at you. The new mod­els bring fresh an­i­ma­tions (you can stomp on an en­emy’s head when they’re down, for ex­am­ple) but, like the new weapons, they don’t im­prove the core game.

So, some of the new stuff dis­tracts from the sim­ple, fleet-footed com­bat that made the first game so ad­dic­tive. But Nid­hogg 2 is still very much worth play­ing: if you look past the un­nec­es­sary add-ons you’ll find the same old Nid­hogg ready to wel­come you back with open arms – and a sword in the stom­ach.

Whereas Nid­hogg was pix­els and stick men, Nid­hogg 2 goes for a car­toony art style – with mixed re­sults.

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