We love couch multiplayer games. Few things in life offer as much joy as inviting a friend over, getting comfortable on the sofa, firing up one of the five games we always keep installed, and then absolutely smashing our unsuspecting guest.
Nidhogg was our favourite game in the genre released back in 2014 to the extent that this reviewer declared it his game of the year. Nearly everything in it was perfect and each part complimented the others. So suffice to say that with Messhof finally releasing a sequel the pressure was truly on when we fired up our review copy of Nidhogg 2. During our playtime towards penning this review we, as is the case with most sequels to beloved games, first had to go through the five stages of sequel acceptance:
Denial: This can't really be the new art-style they went with? Anger: The weapon handling and hit detection isn't as solid and tight as it was in the first. Bargaining: Well the main pillars are the same, while more weapons add variety and there are more levels this time around. Depression: The online multiplayer is still wonky and laggy at times. Acceptance: So it's not just more of the same, Messhof has actually taken the core mechanics and then built upon them giving the game a whole new identity of its own.
So with that out of the way we can actually roll back and start this review again from an informed and level-headed standpoint hopefully unfiltered by fanboyism.
First the basics: What is Nidhogg 2? Like its predecessor, it's a 1v1 fencing tug-of-war game where each player tries to kill their opponent to earn the right of way, then runs to the edge of the screen to reach the next stage of the level, and eventually the "winner" screen where they will then promptly be eaten by the giant worm Nidhogg, all while trying to not lose their life and progress past a continually respawning adversary. It's a simple concept that then gets more complex through weapon positioning, environmental hazards, and the addition of an expanded arsenal of weapons.
The first thing returning players will immediately react to is the vastly altered art-style. Gone is the minimalistic, dreary yet oddly compelling aesthetic style of the original, now replaced with colourful cartoonish characters almost reminiscent of claymation, here battling in front of a slew of intricate and colorful backdrops that each tell us the lore of the world. These are no longer face- and featureless characters dueling in disconnect with their environment. So much so that before each match players go through a character customisation screen, selecting their colour and choosing from a range of clothing and hairstyle options.
While it took us a fair amount of time to adjust to the absence of the familiar Atari-esque aesthetics we knew and loved before the more vibrant and bubble gum feel of this sequel, we have to say we really grew to like it. There is now a distinct feeling of a thought out universe, although the focus is still very much on the actual gameplay.