It seems the games that look visually horrible always get my attention. More often than not, that’s a sign that the game is worried more about “the game” than the spectacle, whether that be through graphics, sounds or innovative controls. Nidhogg is definitely one of those games that doesn’t look appealing but it loaded with everything a video game should be.
I heard about Nidhogg some time ago when I was reading about it traveling with indie game shows, only being playable in-person. That alone is enough to perk my interest in a game, so I kept following Nidhogg and was happy to see it finally get a Steam release on PC.
Nidhogg is a sword fighting game. Your goal is to first stab your opponent and then reach the last screen of your side of the level. But trying to stop you along the way is your opponent, as they respawn every time you kill them. Of course, if they kill you, they have start to run for the opposite side of the level and you go on the defense. It’s digital tug-of-war that plays out fast and furious to much enjoyment.
The graphics of Nidhogg are basic at best, to the point where your mainstream gamer wouldn’t even give it a second look. The visuals might be simple but that’s all they need to be. They get the point across and let you worry about fighting. And in some ways, the “blood” and violence that Nidhogg offers almost seems worse when it’s abstracted in this way.
But spectacle isn’t what Nidhogg is after. It’s head-to-head, face-to-face competition.
The game does have an online multiplayer option but Nidhogg is meant for two (or more) people playing next to each other on the couch. Yelling…shoving…spilling soda…slamming pizza…Nidhogg asks you to return to the gaming you loved – or perhaps the gaming you’ve never experienced, depending on your age.
There are lots of indie and mobile games out there at channel the classic arcade spirit but many are just single-player games. That doesn’t mean they don’t offer a great challenge while you try to get a high score, but they don’t give you the opportunity – or joy – of laying waste to your friend in a very direct way.
Nidhogg’s barrier to entry is low as there are no special moves to speak of, nor any extras like power-ups to worry about. You run, you swing your sword, you jump…you kill. That’s it. It’s been a long time since I’ve played a multiplayer game that’s had me playing over and over for hours on end.
Nidhogg has received a lot of press over the past month or so, getting good reviews all over the place. I doubt it will ever be considered a mainstream game, just like Minecraft despite having 20+ million players. I’m sure Nidhogg copycats will be right around corner, many of which will probably do little more than provide better graphics. And honestly, I’d be okay with that. I’m not saying Nidhogg needs the Unreal engine or anything, but if given some 16-bit era graphics it would provide a little more nostalgia fun. Think Blackthorne with swords.
If you value fun competition and classic gaming, then Nidhogg is a title you owe it to yourself to pick up. Just make sure you have a second controller laying around and an extra spot on your couch because you’ll want to invite some friends over for a night of swashbuckling.