Nidhogg

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Messhof studio’s NIDHOGG II has somehow made a connection to feelings of pure joy. Yea, it reached in and found some part of a long-hidden id, that had been paved over by multilayers of jaded titles. I almost forgot it existed, but the simple and exhilarating nature of this game makes for a kinda enjoyment that verges on well-to-do lunacy.

NIDHOGG II brings back the intense tug-of-war gameplay, and replaces its predecessor’s minimalistic aesthetic with a vibrant cartoon color palette.  The goal of the game is simple enough, run as fast as your little feet can take you to the left or right of the screen, (depending what side you are on) while stabbing, stomping and letting loose arrows at your opponent. All in order to reach the final screen which sacrifices you to the Nidhogg, a wormlike flying creature, who swoops in to eat you like a fun sized Snicker.

Weapons alternate between broadsword, rapier, knife, bow and your own footsies of fury. It’s based entirely in the realm of simplicity on its surface, but once you take your fight to another human player, rather it be on line or locally, you begin to learn the intricacies in your approach to the gameplay. Using your D-pad will raise your sword or knife to different height levels either high, mid or low. You can use those varying stances as a way to foresee your opponents offensive and defensive approach. This gives you the chance to block a sword throw, or address an arrow back to its sender.

The most alluring part of the whole experience, is how easily it is to turn the tables on your opponent. Just because you are racing through and making quick work of your adversary initially, it doesn’t mean they won’t stop you in the last screen and make a comeback. The variation of attacks and learning your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses usually dictates the direction of the game.  Quick decisions and fancy swashbuckling can turn the tide relatively fast.

All these elements make for a good time, but it isn’t until you go head-to-head with a friend that laughter takes hold of you. The laughter is reminiscent to that feeling yo had  climbing monkey bars when you were six-years-old. It’s becomes Prozac in video game form. Stabbing someone in the face with a rapier and watching them run as fast as they can to avoid fighting completely. Watching a match that could take 2 minutes, instead take 15 minutes due to the insane back and forth. These NIDHOGG games are uniquely their own, and a straight up blast. Hearing a friend result to repeating “I just wanna win” over and over again during particularly long matches, only adds to the levels of fun that this game administers in large doses.

Even though multiplayer is where the beef is, the single player campaign is no slouch either. This takes you across 10 different maps, each with their own unique cartoonish characteristics. The AI can be a tricky mistress here; making for unexpected amounts of hair-pulling tension. I gotta hand it to Messhoff for creating an increasingly savvy opponent. The AI learns from your moves, and will act accordingly to 100% piss you off with its ability to accurately assumptions what your next attack will be. It can get challenging and heated, but in my book that is always a good thing.

Use single-player mode as a tutorial and then jump online to take on some real challenges against NIDHOGG II elite. Or, take on your buddies in knock-out tournaments. The real magic lies in this games ability to create such a gameplay rich expericnce out of the pieces of such a simple game.  Play it however you want, bottom line is NIDHOGG II is a real glutton for all that is great and fun and right with the universe.