Fight for your right to be sacrificed to the titular worm in developer Messhof’s Nidhogg2. This quick-fire half tug-o-war, half race to the other side is a follow up to 2014’s Nidhogg with a change in visual aesthetic and some additions to the gameplay. Death comes quickly and without mercy and there is no chivalry or honor in Nidhogg 2 – just a race to the maws of the grotesque dragon.
The most obvious change to Nidhogg 2 over its sequel is its art style. The crisp Atari 2600-like aesthetic of the original is replaced by a repulsively grotesque style from a bygone era. A mix of MTV interstitial and Garbage Pail Kids, this is an ugly game. But ugliness seems to be a deliberate choice, and it wears its grossness well. No more black backgrounds and chandeliers swinging in a cold castle – instead, the backgrounds are dedicated to both rainbows and statues sculpted from feces. Added with the more complex art style is the ability to do some cursory character customization. Unfortunately, this tends to slow down the pace of local multiplayer games until everyone just realizes that every character, no matter how much care is applied, will still look like an ugly cave man with awful fashion sense.
The gameplay remains crisp and tight, but with added elements and weapons that will add a new layer of strategy, or alienate fans of the original. Now there are flying kicks, slide kicks, and even the ability to kick and stomp your opponent to death. New weapons add variety from the usual fencing foil. A bow and arrow, dagger, and larger two-handed sword were added in to assist in dealing one-hit death to your opponent. During normal versus play, weapons will change after an opponent dies, littering the ground with an arsenal of different swords and bows in contested areas. Each time your kill your opponent – or they kill themselves by falling off a ledge or running themselves into your sword- you are given the go ahead to advance until you are stopped, or you die. Run far enough to the finish and you’ve proven yourself worthy of sacrifice to the Nidhogg.
There isn’t much of a single-player mode to be had, and no options to fight against bots, but there is an “arcade” mode that has you fight through the different locales. This can be beaten in about 20 minutes and provides a little practice for the “real thing” – but the AI isn’t nearly as exciting to fight as other players.
Nidhogg 2 has online multiplayer, both ranked and casual matchmaking – but the real fun to be had is when it is employed as a local party game. There is a full range of local player vs. player options available. There is the normal 1 vs. 1 versus mode as well as a tournament mode for up to 8 players – kicking your friend’s faces into colorfully gory puddles has never been as fun. These versus modes allow for full customization of weapons and even moves that are allowed. Don’t like jump kicks? Turn them off. Do you want to make everyone fight while crawling? There’s a setting for that too.
Nidhogg 2 is a gross, stabby scramble to the finish, and it’s so easy and fun for a group of players to play it’s a natural party game. Some may think that it has taken some aesthetic miscues, but I think the style ultimately works for it and lends to the fun absurdity that is a duel in Nidhogg 2. Available now on PlayStation 4, Windows, Linux, and Mac.