Coming hot off the heels of the original’s surprise success, Nidhogg 2 certainly makes changes, but is it an improvement?
Nidhogg 2 is a frenzied take on fencing that pits two players against each other in a contest to race to the end of a series of rooms before the other, with the only thing getting in your way being your opponent and their weapon. Each time either player dies or reaches the next room the opponent is spawned in front of them again to commence another duel with one of a small selection of weapons.
You only win when you have reached the end of this long corridor of rooms, though at any point your opponent could land a kill and steal the lead away from you. The combat is slippery and purposefully silly, but that really doesn’t mean there’s no skill involved. Each of the weapons has their own good attributes, with daggers being great for throwing and the bow giving you unlimited access to a ranged attack. As well as this the simplistic controls soon reveal the ability to change stance, parry, slide, aerial attacks & even more.
While ensuring to judge the game on it’s own merit, it’s hard not to mention the shift away from the originals visual style. Nidhogg was a minimalist masterstroke, with the subtle use of colour working with the mechanics and the music to focus on nothing but the gameplay and create a sense of so much more than what was there. Nidhogg 2 flips that on it’s head with a stark shift in visual style, with the sequel adopting a more realistic yet still pixel based approach, and diving head first into the gross out humour that merely tinged the original.
The wobbly slapstick humour and exaggerated movement of your avatar work with the games frantic mechanics to sometimes make the game feel too silly or inaccurate, this all betrays the games solid main gameplay hook. Also if the Fighting still feels fantastic and if you liked the original it feels just as good with the improvement of additional weapons for variety. If you want to tone down the wackiness the game does offer the chance to turn off ‘Blood & Guts’ in the Extras menu, which helps to streamline the experience slightly, though I eventually came round to the games sense of humour and found myself loving the exaggerated absurdity of it all, which the blood and guts only added to in my eyes.
If single player or local is exhausted, the game also offers an online mode. Sadly, on Switch the online lobby is lacking with matches taking a long time to connect and even when you eventually do I found a lot of slowdown. Hopefully this will become less of a problem over time, as playing against human players makes this game wildly more entertaining. The AI can still pose a challenge and certainly plays strategically to a point, but it’s nothing against the unpredictability of a human player who’s trying to mess with you.
While the gameplay certainly has hidden depth, it’s a shame the total package doesn’t, as beyond the main modes there’s very little to do or enjoy here. Luckily the core fighting mode feels fantastic and is worth picking up for a few games with your friends every now and again. There is also additional clothing items to unlock which help to bring you back, but there isn’t a whole load of replayability beyond this.
Nidhogg 2 chose a tonal shift away from the original and built the rest around it while refining what made the first so good, it serves to make the sequel a goofy yet gratifying title that still controls like a dream and demands your attention if you truly want to excel. The visuals and animation accentuate the humour, making this game so funny and charming it’s hard not to have a smile on your face when you and a friend are competing in it’s many ridiculously deranged and disgusting levels. While it’s cliché to say how at home a local co-op title feels on Switch by now, it really can’t be understated how well Nidhogg 2 utilizes not only the ability to play with friends anywhere, but also the Joy-Cons limited control scheme. While let down by lacklustre solo offerings, as soon as I had this title in front of me and some friends it made for an absolute riot of hilarious yet satisfying, sword fighting fun.