While many wait for the next big title, smaller indie games fill the gaps within the major AAA releases. Among these titles is Nidhogg from developer Messhof. At first glance the portrait displayed isn't anything that would take a spot in a respectable museum but take another look and the fine details may surprise you. Nidhogg's image may not be of this generation or the last few for that matter but for all it's simplicity does its transcend to the height of AAA titles?
Focused on it's combat Nidhogg offers very little in content, the single player consists of dueling several enemies within the four available stages in side-scrolling fashion. The goal is the same throughout, make it across to the opposite end whist in numerous duels of death. The respawns are unlimited but once either makes it across 3 screens the game is over and the victor is eaten by the Nidhogg, the world tree chomping worm of Norse mythology.
If there is anything that Nidhogg does extremely well is its combat, the intricate system requires quick reflexes, perfect timing and finesse. Considering the simple premise, the multitude of stances and moves offer up a good amount of depth. Duels expanding across the pixilated canvas aren't uncommon and it's a testament to how deep the combat is. Stage hazards do play their role but in the end the better fighter will come out on top. It's any easy game to get into and one that offers up some intense moments with duels reaching ridiculous heights.
Without a doubt the visuals of Nidhogg are not the main attraction, it's sprite based aesthetics do enough to portray the environments and figures throughout the world. Though limited the end result gives Nidhogg some visual charm and identity. Seeing the floor and walls painted with the players matter is chuckle worthy and a nice touch displaying the chaos among adversaries.
However, the small amount of stages leaves much to desire, considering how simple the levels are it's hard to imagine why any DLC has not been introduced. Stages present little in the imagination department with minimal inspiration. In light of how much was presented in the combat one would imagine a larger emphasis in the level design to promote replayability.
Nidhogg's multiplayer is crippled by the absence of any online lobby system that could in fact strengthen the competitive mode drastically. The limited online mutliplayer consist of single encounters unless played locally via the bracket based tournament mode. The idea behind the mode is brilliant but why it isn't available online is a major misstep in the design.
Nidhogg is a charming experience that could of been greater if not for it's lack in content and multiplayer options. The simple to execute yet deep combat system is offset by many other flaws in design. Nidhoggs first attempt has the most important aspect of any game of this style right, it may be completely lacking in narrative but definitely a game made for competitive multiplayer. Playing with some buds is fun and Nidhogg does a great job with contact kills allowing you to embellish every neck break or impalement of a friend. It's simple, stupid, and addicting fun. Pick it up on a sale, the asking price might be a bit steep for the short but humorous experience.
+The Nidhogg has no Mercy
-Lack of online options and lobbies
-Cloud stage is weak
-Lag can be an issue