Nidhogg
Gameplay 8
Graphics 8
Sound 8

If single player games are your thing then you can probable give Nidhogg a miss. Gather around a few friends and start a tournament if you really want to experience what all the fuss is about. The frantic combat will test your luck and reflexes while the low system requirements means the game will run smoothly on just about any hardware.

Gameplay: The single player is good practice but the real fun lies in multi-player.

Graphics: Retro pixel art with smooth animations.

Sound: A brilliant electronic soundtrack composed by Daedelus

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Nidhogg

Developer: Messhof | Publisher: Messhof | Release Date: 2014 | Genre: Action / Indie / Sports | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

In case you are wondering what a mythological Norse dragon has to do with a game about fencing, the answer is rather simple; the victor becomes its dinner. It might sound unorthodox but then again there is very little about Nidhogg that can be considered normal.

Nidhogg is a game about fencing but forget what you have seen about the sport on television. You and your opponent face each other in a neutral zone with the aim of reaching the end zone a few screens further. To reach the end zone and the glory of becoming dragon chow you have to kill your opponent which causes an arrow to appear pointing the way. There is no life bars so a single well placed stab or thrust is enough to end your opponent’s life. They will however respawn ahead of you so you have to press your advantage while the arrow favors you.

Of course if your character gets snuffed the tables are turned and your opponent can make a run for their scoring zone which lies in the opposite direction. This turns matches into a tug of war where the balance is constantly shifting and you have to earn each victory. What makes the matches even tenser is that neither player has any advantage over the other when it comes to moves or abilities. Each player starts with a sword and while there are only two buttons, one to attack and one to jump, the combat system is surprisingly deep.

Because of the one hit kills you have to make every move count and use the environment to your advantage. You can attack high or low, parry attacks and even disarm your opponent if your timing is correct. Losing your sword whether through disarmament or a badly timed throw still leaves you with your repertoire of jump kicks, punches and leg sweeps until you manage to regain your weapon or if both players are sans weapons you can engage in some fisticuffs. You can even kill an opponent with your bare hands if you manage to knock them down first but nothing beats impaling your foe on a sword and wiggling it around a bit as their pixilated blood sprays over the arena.

There are only four levels which might not sound like much but each comes with their own set of challenges and obstacles. The level set in the mines has pits and conveyor belts to make things trickier and the low ceilings mean flinging your sword is impossible. The cloud level has disappearing platforms while the wilds feature tall grass that conceals your opponent.

Nidhogg uses retro pixel art for the visuals so modern players might be put off by the game’s aesthetic but give it a chance and it will grow on you. The graphics might be retro but the animation is smooth making for lightning fast gameplay. The game also features an electronic soundtrack by Daedelus which perfectly matches the frantic gameplay. The game can be played using either a keyboard or Xbox 360 controller and there is a tutorial that teaches you the basics.

While Nidhogg features a single player mode it can be completed in about 30 minutes and serves only as practice for the main event which is the multiplayer. You can fight opponents online but this mode was a bit unstable and filled with lag at the time of writing. The local multi-player, however, is some of the most fun that I have had with a game in recent times. Apart from straightforward matches you can also enable some variants such as boomerang swords or low gravity which can change the whole dynamic of fights. Depending on the skill level of your opponent rounds can be over in a matter of seconds or drag on for ages. It is one of those games where you will be laughing with glee over every kill and shouting at your friends when they manage to best you. For players that can still remember playing against friends that are sitting next to you instead of halfway across the world this game will be a real treat.

Nidhogg is immensely entertaining but obviously if you don’t have accesses to two controllers, a big television and some friends whenever you feel like a match the fun factor drops a bit. The single player mode is great for speed runs but unlikely to hold your interest for too long and the online multiplayer lacks the smoothness of local matches. Local multiplayer games may have fallen out of favor in this day and age but Nidhogg is a nice blast from the past that comes highly recommended if you are able to play it as it was designed to be played.

*Review originally published February 2014.

System Requirements

  • OS: Microsoft® Windows® XP / Vista / 7
  • Processor: 1.2GHz processor
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM
  • Graphics: DirectX 8-compatible graphics card with at least 32MB of video memory
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Hard Drive: 100 MB available space
  • Additional Notes: Microsoft Xbox 360 Controller or Direct Input compatible controller
  • OS: Microsoft® Windows® XP / Vista / 7
  • Processor: 1.4GHz processor or faster
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: DirectX 8-compatible graphics card with at least 32MB of video memory
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Hard Drive: 100 MB available space
  • Additional Notes: Microsoft Xbox 360 Controller or Direct Input compatible controller
  • OS: Ubuntu 12.04 or newer, other unsupported distros may work
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 3 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel Core HD Graphics 3000/4000, NVIDIA 8800 GT, ATI Radeon HD 4850 or better (Open Source Drivers NOT SUPPORTED)
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
  • Sound Card: lib32-alsa-plugins or libasound2-plugins:i386 and libasound2-plugins-extra:i386 may be required.
  • Additional Notes: NOT SUPPORTED: ATI Radeon X1600, Intel GMA950, NVIDIA Geforce 7050
  • OS: 10.9
  • Processor: 1.2GHz processor
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Hard Drive: 100 MB available space

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