Let's start this review slightly differently. This is an amazing game and you should be ashamed you're not playing it right now.
I think many of you will agree that there are very few genres that can compete with fighting games when it comes to a local multiplayer experience. While RPGs, FPSs and RTSs are usually played alone with headphones on, it's the fighting games that not brings the whole circle of friends together. And the neighbours as well, since they're jarateed off that you are still shouting for several hours straight. Street Fighter, Tekken, Mortal Kombat, Skullgirls - these games are the first ones that come to mind whenever you think about playing together on the same couch with your buddies. Hell, even on the Wii, that's notorious for being the best console to play with your buddies in the same room, the best selling game that's not Sports or Mario is... Super Smash Bros. Brawl. A fighting game. The sheer competitiveness of fighting one-to-one or two versus two is already thrilling and excitement-filling, but the possible moves, combinations and strategies can leave an incredible impression to anyone.
And Nidhogg, well, is a fighting game. Kind of.
Truth to be told, it's a fighting game in the purest form. No different characters. No varied movesets. Perfect. Symmetry.
Both players get to play as a diffent-colored fighter. Part stickman, part pixel-man(?), he wields a sword of sorts. It's probably a rapier. I mean, you stab the other part stickman, part pixel-man with it. The stages are perfectly symmetrical as well, meaning that the only advantage you can get is the one you build yourself.
The gameplay isn't traditional in fighting game sense: two players try to stab/divekick/rip-spine-off one another. Such actions result in an instant-kill. Although this is not quite near the Divekick level, where one touch means someone is dead already, the fights rarely last more than a few seconds. Once the morbid deed has been done and your opponent is bleeding all over the place, a huge GO! arrow appears in the direction where your opponent should be. If he was alive, that is. You run towards the arrow, the screen moves slightly and now your opponent has respawned, standing a few meters away from you, weapon ready. Kill him, see the arrow, run towards the arrow, move screen even more. In a way, this might remind you of those classic beat-'em-ups, where you have to punch down all the guys in the screen, see the GO! arrow appear and then move the screen slightly, getting yourself an inch closer to victory. The process in Nidhogg is pretty similar, except that in the way of killing>running towards arrow>killing, you will most likely be pierced like a kebab and left pouring blood all over the carpet.
If such an accident happens, and it will, a GO! arrow will still appear. This time, for your opponent. If you fail enough times and get killed more, the screen will move to the final stage. Dying here will usually mean that your opponent wins. As he runs towards victory, you block his initial lunge, jump to the air and land on his head. The ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ manages to roll back and pick up his rapier. However, this time, he is on the defensive, while you are free to run towards him, roll just under his blade and swipe his feet, knocking your foe down. It all culminates with a glorified spine-rip, with extra crunchy sound effects as a bonus. You run towards the arrow, the screen moves and you feel a little bit more relieved, knowing that you managed to push away your fate slightly farther away.
Such is the beatiful fencing of Nidhogg, where you use the responsive and fluid control to out-skill and out-wit your opponent. Fights last mere seconds, but they are just as exciting as a whole round of Street Fighter. You'll never feel cheated if you die, since you were not out-gunned. I mean, who the hell picks Chun Li while playing with your friends, anyway!? Erm, sorry. The whole game can be controlled by 6 buttons - 4 for movement and 2 for attacking. It's incredibly simple and easy to pick up, but just like the aforementioned Divekick, this game is immensely complex. With a few button combinations, you can jump, divekick, roll, cartwheel (!), taunt, throw you goshdarned rapier into the unsuspecting victim's face and more.
Not only the fencing is beautiful, however. The arenas you fight in are as well. There is some variety and creativity here and there, but not too much to distract you from the true goal. To appeal to the mighty Nidhogg. Oh, forgot to mention him! Reader, meet Nidhogg, the giant pink nordic dragon-snake-thingy that eats you once you win.
All jokes aside, this game is filled with incredible design decisions, even if some of them are accidental. Even the mere fact that the whole point of the game is to get EATEN with a loud *CRUNCH* sound following makes this game perfect for parties. Sure, your opponent won after that hard match and he might have been using his cheap running technique, but he got eaten. The silly Nidhogg's eyes are enough to soften up even the sorest losers. And the awesome design doesn't stop there.
The sound effects are great to cheer people up as well. Alongside the general rapier sounds, you also get a whole bunch of *slash*, *slush* and *GWEAAAARRRRGHHHhhhh...* as well. After your opponent misjudges his distance and divekicks right in front of your rapier, impaling himself, it's hard for both to contain laughter after the poor sod releases a complimentary *Erghhwgghhht...*
This game also has flaws, as hard it might be to confess. Single-player is pretty much a glorified training mode (aren't most fighting games like that?) with an easily exploitable AI and online-multiplayers suffers from latency issues. However, playing anything but local multiplayer on this game is just a crime against it. Still, the number of stages is underwhelming and Steam Workshop support could help it. Another minor complaint would be that you can't pick your own color during offline multiplayer, only tournament mode.
Nidhogg can create new friendships. Nidhogg can strenghthen existing ones. And most likely Nidhogg will. Dueling with a buddy, be it you two are playing for the first time or this is your fifth hundredth match, is just simply a blast, filled with laughter, joy, shouts and pixelated blood. But it's even more fun to play with even more friends. Up to 8 player tournament mode is incredible (and the winner gets something more awesome than being eaten by a worm) and while two are locked in an intense duel, the others can shoutcast, cheer or pick favorites. It's an incredible party game. Tim is strategic, trying to roll under your feet and disarm you. Mike is wrong in the head and he thinks that throwing your only weapon in vain hopes to kill is the best way to win. He's probably right. Johnny? He's an ♥♥♥♥, trying to run around the opposition, instead of fighting head-on. Steve is good at dive-kicking. He'll dive-kick when he has the upper hand and when he doesn't. He'll dive-kick anytime. Oh, there's also me, the sick ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥, who rolls around the floor using the same move he calls "Cartwheel assassin" trying to sneakily stab you once you're distracted.
All of these strategies work. All of them are viable. All of them can win games and they HAVE won games.
There are no tier-lists in Nidhogg. There are no combo sheets either. Just pure fun. If you, dear reader, think that this isn't a fighting game, you're probably right as well. But all I care is that Nidhogg is the best local multiplayer game you could ever play.