Tug of War – Nidhogg
If you’re a PC gamer you are no doubt already familiar with Nidhogg, but our console playing friends have been kept out in the dark, unable to take part in its eccentric brand of fencing – until now. That’s right, now PS4, PS Vita and PSTV owners can impale their friends on ludicrously skinny swords, to their heart’s content!
In case you’ve been under a rock since the start of the year, Nidhogg is a competitive fencing and tug of war game, with two players facing off against one another. The ultimate goal is to reach the opposite side of the screen, and to be devoured by the titular worm known as The Nidhogg. Why are you competing to be eaten by a gigantic worm? Because, why the fuck not? That’s why!
If you’re hoping to be the first to get eaten, you better bring your A-game, though. Nidhogg is all about quick reflexes, elegant rolls, and ridiculous leaps over your adversary – and that’s all before you’ve even impaled them on your blade.
Each round begins by placing you in the center of the arena, sword in hand, across from your opponent. The duel begins from here, but worry not, you have a number of impressive moves in your arsenal. You won’t have to memorise complex button combos, instead, Nidhogg focuses on nimble fingers and perfectly timed executions. You can raise and lower your epee (fencing terms!) to various parts of the opponents body and attempt to deftly run them through, meanwhile they will be trying to do the same to you. If you manage to maneuver your sword below your opponent’s, and if you are quick enough, you can even knock the sword from their hand, giving you a huge advantage. Dropped swords can be retrieved by their owners if they find the time and space to get it though. When you’ve managed to kill your opponent, a quick dash to the other end of the screen will take you to the next part of the arena. If you aren’t fast enough, though, your opponent could respawn and toss their sword towards you at great speed. These particular kills are great to look at, leaving a trail of pixellated blood in their wake, and feel the most skillful.
That’s the great thing about Nidhogg, it all feels so effortless and everything flows beautifully. It is incredibly easy to pull of impressive-looking maneuvers that will delight your friends and, occasionally, even your opponents
As you’ve probably already gathered, Nidhogg is most enjoyable when played with friends, but there is a short single player mode for those so inclined. At around 20 minutes long though, it’s more of a teaser for the main multiplayer event. In single player you’ll rotate through the game’s four maps and face off against a variety of enemies, each a different colour from yourself. Speedrun enthusiasts will get a kick out of single player, and will tussle with others for the top spot on the leaderboards, but for the rest of us it is likely to be merely an aside that is quickly forgotten about
Multiplayer modes are featured aplenty, with options to play online with strangers, local ad-hoc multiplayer matches, and eight player tournaments. There’s also interesting modifiers and variants to indulge in, such as boomerang swords that return when you throw them, low gravity mode, sword throwing only and many others. Sadly, we couldn’t get these variants to work during our playtesting, but we found online play to be mostly lag-free and enjoyable, despite some small issues with matchmaking showing no players online.
You could describe Nidhogg as ‘deceptively simplistic’ when debating the merits of its deeply tuned sword fighting and acrobatics, but one cannot overlook just how simplistic its physical appearance is. Graphically, it wouldn’t look out of place in an Atari 2600 showcase. We wouldn’t describe it as pretty, but it has a certain charm, and each location is interestingly detailed, from swinging chandeliers, waterfalls, and the dripping blood your foes leave on the scenery. Messhof, at the very least, should be commending for channeling the Prince of Persia style of animation that Mechner championed when creating his 1989 masterpiece. Movement feels fluid, quick and graceful and the responsive controls scheme at the heart of the game reinforces the feeling of absolute, precision-tuned control that you have over your character.
It could be argued that Nidhogg is a little lacking on the content front. Your $15 buys you a short single player campaign, 4 different maps to play on, as well as local multiplayer and online multiplayer. After the first hour of play there will be no great surprises anymore, except for those that your opponent can provide in the heat of battle. It’s not necessarily a bad deal, but we would have liked to see a couple of extra maps tossed in to sweeten the deal.
If you’ve ever had the temptation to run your friend through with a sword that’s as thick as a french fry, save yourself the jail time and challenge them to a game of Nidhogg instead!
Nidhogg is available as a crossbuy title on PSN.