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Nidhogg

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By Azeebo03-02-2014
BloodyFanGirl (editor)
StuntmanLT (editor)
Nidhogg

The Defence

Developer:
Messhof
Publisher:
Messhof
Genre:
Action, Indie
Release Date:
13-01-2014

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Pentium 4 1.4 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce 6600
AMD equivalent
RAM:
1 GB
HDD:
175 MB
DirectX:
8

The Case

What happens when you take the complex and time consuming sport of fencing, simplify it down to its bare basics, fuse it with gymnastics, then add a sprinkle of Vikings, who of course know kung fu, before finally grinding it all up in a Commodore 64 shaped oven? You guessed it - Nidhogg.

The Trial

If all that sounded confusing then, let me tell you, Nidhogg is far from it. The goal of Nidhogg? Get your fencing, kung fu Viking through a series of fights and, should he survive, you get the honor of being devoured by a giant dragon. That’s right, you are fighting to the death so that you can die...but that is Nidhogg to a tee. Nothing quite makes any sense, but everything makes perfect sense...you know what I mean?

A classic standoff after countless deaths.

A classic standoff after countless deaths.

You start off in a central arena. To the left, your enemy’s goal and to your right, your goal. The first person to get to their goal wins. You will be leaping through the air, wall jumping to land in an advantageous position, throwing your rapier at the enemy only to have him block it mid-flight and so on. He charges at you, but you deftly roll past him, picking up your blade as you go. You spin around, disarm your opponent then run him through. You rejoice in defeating your opponent and move towards the exit only to be stabbed in the face when he respawns right in front of you. All this in roughly 5 seconds. That is what Nidhogg is. It is an adrenaline ride where every move could spell your doom, but every victory gets you one step closer to your goal.

Messhof have done an amazing job at taking a fast paced combat system and distilling it down to a couple of buttons, meaning anybody can pick this up and play it. But don't mistake this for a simple game, as no two players play the same and no two fights will ever play out the same either. One game you could be in a tense duel, nimbly dodging your enemies attacks and trying to land your own killing strike, then the next you could be leaping through the air to avoid an aerial assault or throwing your sword at an enemy making a dash for the exit. For a game with two action buttons, there is a lot of depth to it.

I can't even see my sword on this level!

I can't even see my sword on this level!

Whilst there is depth in its mechanics, there is next to no depth in its content. You can see everything you will ever see in about 20 minutes, as there are only four distinct arenas to fight through. The main bulk of the game is its single player mode, where you fight increasingly more intelligent AI opponents one on one, as quickly as you can. A round can last 20 seconds or 20 minutes but it does not help stop the feeling of emptiness.

There are other modes however, such as Tournament which allows you to add custom rules - like no swords, or sudden death - as well as increasing the number of participating AI. It is a fun diversion, but again, you are going against the same AI in the same arenas over and over. A game like this should come to life in its multiplayer, of which Nidhogg has both local and online. The most fun to be had is locally, as you and a bunch of mates duke it out in crazy matches to determine who is the king of the Viking kung fu masters. But then you realise, this is a PC title, and local multiplayer is not only inconvenient to set up but, if you don't have gamepads, you could both be huddled around a single keyboard.

Online multiplayer is a more natural way to play nowadays, but then you hit another problem and that is players. The matchmaking is either very unstable or there simply isn’t anybody online as I have only successfully gotten into a game once and even then it seemed my opponent was lagging as he barely reacted to my actions.

This is what greets you when you finally get to the end.

This is what greets you when you finally get to the end.

Unfortunately, the negatives do not end there. The game itself looks horrendous. Many people out there will say it is retro, but no. Regardless of how retro the game may be, the visuals are downright awful to behold. In fact, I am barely able to play one of the four arenas because my eyes can barely handle the bombardment of flickering lights in the background.

Luckily though, the music and the animations are superb. I could work out to the rocking tunes Nidhogg has to offer and those animations...damn...they are so fine. As blocky as the game is, the moves are smooth as butter.

The Verdict

Nidhogg is an amazing demo. The problem is this demo costs £11.99 to play and there is simply not enough content to justify its price. Whilst the mechanics are spot on and the controls are awesome, there is a massive void where the actual game should be but simply isn’t.

Case Review

  • Heart Pounding: Fast paced, exhilarating combat.
  • Mario Eat Your Heart Out: Controls are tight and easy to learn.
  • Banging Tunes: The soundtrack is awesome.
  • I’m a What Now?: Viking Kung Fu fencing gymnast is an interesting character concept.
  • Way Too Retro: It looks horrible.
  • Hello?: Nobody online. Online does not work.
  • This is One Expensive Demo: This game doesn’t offer enough game.
2.5
Score: 2.5/5
Not enough game to justify the price.

Appeal

If you’ve ever wanted to play a game that captures the tension of fencing with a foil, then Nidhogg might just be for you. Though the game comes with a list of pretences. The first thing you’ll notice is just how ugly Nidhogg looks. It’s something you could’ve done better yourself using MS Paint. The second thing you’ll notice is the soundtrack, which seems to consist mainly of an assortment of random irritating noises looping for all eternity. I get the whole retro wave, but come on. Games looked and sounded significantly better on the Commodore 64, and that’s no exaggeration.

But then you get your hands on the actual gameplay, at which point you might start to forgive the audio-visual presentation. Nidhogg employs a rather simple set of controls; you use the WASD keys for movement and adjustment of your foil, and then you have two additional keys to jump and stab. And that’s it. Yet, despite this seemingly simplistic control scheme, the game offers a surprising amount of competitive depth. With these few buttons you can attack high and low, jump and roll, swing your foil from overhead and even throw it at your opponent if you want. Your opponent possesses the same abilities, and can parry your attacks, disarm you, and fight you hand-to-hand if the situation calls for it. The combat is for the most part fluid and fun, especially with a friend, and the back-and-forth fighting itself doesn’t really ever feel old despite the repetitive nature of it.

Sadly, while Nidhogg has a refreshingly simple combat system that is easy to learn and difficult to truly master, there isn’t anything more to it. The single player campaign does a decent job breaking you in for what is supposed to be the game’s big thing - the multiplayer. And yet, you won’t find anyone playing it online. I don’t know if that’s because nobody is playing or the matchmaking system is broken, but it matters little. Sure, you can play with friends on the same keyboard or invite them to an online game, but if you don’t have any friends willing to buy the game, then you’re out of luck. You’ll be done with the game’s campaign that is repeated over four small maps - one of which, the sky-level, is so badly designed that it is almost unplayable - within an hour. Nidhogg might get more content later on, but what the product developer Messhof wants to sell you today is more of a tech demo than a game. Nidhogg in its current form is an ugly prototype that’ll cost you €14 to try. For this price, they could at least have shown us the courtesy of including an extra copy to give to a friend.

2.5
Score: 2.5/5

Appeal

Nidhogg is a simplistic 2D fighting game, where players duel with swords in order to advance to the next screen. That is the premise and to be fair it works very well. The title of the game is a bit misleading as anyone who knows a little about Norse mythology will know that Nidhogg is a worm that gnaws on the root of Yggdrasil. Graphically, the game looks like it is from the 80’s pre-8-bit era, a style that might put some people off, but you should not let that stop you from trying it.

The soundtrack is very annoying as it sounds like they chucked a few noises together and put it in a loop for the whole game. Gameplay is simple, but very addictive. You duel an opponent in order to advance to the next screen on the right - defeat him and you move forward, lose and he gets to advance to the left. It is like a tug-of-war with swords. If you get to the final screen then you win, get eaten by the giant pink Nidhogg worm and advance to the next stage, where the action starts again. It can get repetitive, but it is usually a lot of fun to play.

How long a game session lasts varies from a few minutes all the way up to a half hour, depending on how quickly you defeat your opponent. If he gets the upper hand on you, then you can be pushed back quite quickly and find yourself fighting hard not to lose the stage. One major drawback seems to be the broken online play. When trying to use the matchmaking option, the game failed to find anyone online to play against. Overall, this is quite a fun game, as you can just pick up and play without needing to learn a complicated control scheme. A great game to kill time with, but it loses points due to the online play not working properly and the rather high price.

3.5
Score: 3.5/5

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Comments (2)
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Posts: 1548

I really liked the music and I don't see the art style ugly per se.

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Posts: 1317

Now, if they could release like a 15-map free DLC, I'd definitely recommend the game.