The original Nidhogg escaped me entirely, so I went into Messhof Games’ sequel on the Nintendo Switch with zero expectations. All I knew was that it was a one-on-one “fencing” game where the objective is to reach the opposing side of the screen. Nidhogg 2 is essentially more of that, I suppose, but forgoes the original’s Atari-like pixels in favor of an equally rad and gross visual styling.
As I mentioned above, the concept is incredibly simple — use swords, bow and arrow, and daggers to defend yourself while trying to reach the opposing side of the screen. Reach the final sequence of screens and win by being eaten by a grotesque flying worm.
Nidhogg 2 is incredibly accessible with its two-button control scheme. You can move and change stances using the analog stick or d-pad, of which I strongly preferred the latter. I found myself “accidentally” changing stances too many times with the Pro Controller’s analog stick. Along with a jump and attack button, you can also throw your weapon at an opponent by holding up while pressing the aforementioned attack button.
In a game that lives and dies by its PVP modes, which are available both online and locally, having a control setup this easy to understand is a huge check in the plus column — especially on the Switch, where one can pop off the JoyCon and set up a quick local game while waiting for a movie to start, tucked away in a bar corner, or whatever local multiplayer scenarios you can envision. Local play offers standard 1v1 matches for two players, or you can create a tournament for up to 8 (great for parties!).
As far as gameplay goes, Nidhogg 2 feels pretty great. While holding a weapon you can shift between high, middle, and low stances. Stabbing (by either walking with a sword equipped or pressing attack), while an opponent is in a different stance, lands a kill as long as your stance is higher. For example, if you’re in low stance and your friend is in high, walking into them is only going to get you stabbed in the eyeballs. Which sucks. So instead of walking into them with your sword drawn, you can press attack to execute a stab. It’s not all about killing, though. The winner isn’t the player with the most kills, but the one who reaches the end of their chain of screens first and gets rewarded by eternally living in a giant worm’s stomach.
There’s more to Nidhogg 2 than meets the eye, though, which I learned quickly while playing online against more experienced players. For the most part, online runs smoothly and I only encountered a few instances where a dying player’s corpse remained on-screen for a few seconds before expiring off and being replaced with a fresh meat suit.
With the proper button presses and directional tilts, one can short-hop over low attacks, land a jumping kick, sweep the opponent’s legs, execute a faster forward-jump to close the distance or reach the end of the screen more efficiently, and more. As expected, the more I play online (rather than the fairly easy single-player arcade mode) the more methods I acquire in how to read attacks, or baiting people into easier kill scenarios. It’s a lot of fun and surprisingly technical for a 2-button game.
Graphically, Nidhogg 2 is grossly beautiful. The whole game doesn’t resemble those classic Ren & Stimpy close-ups, but there’s plenty of fluids, bones, meat, and other yummy delights littering stages that are bound to be off-putting to some who only want a new multiplayer game to dive into with their friends. I’m not those people. Give me ALL the grossness! There are some contrasting stages that take place near waterfalls, mushrooms, snowy druidic camps, pirate ships, and crystal caverns, so it’s not all gross. You can also customize your monstrous Sesame Street lookalike with a variety of hair, accessory, torso, and leg options, which can be taken online as well.
The soundtrack is another praiseworthy opportunity for Nidhogg 2, which is mostly electronica and features the likes of Mux Mool and Doseone. It’s thematically good and keeps the blood pumping while trying to outwit opponents. For whatever reason I always tend to move along with the tempo, so a track like Land of Sand that blends bassy beats with mellow grooves led to interesting results where I’d go from pressuring to precision regardless of the environmental layout.
Overall, Nidhogg 2 is a great addition to the Nintendo Switch’s library of multiplayer games, both on and offline. I’m mostly a solo player, so the arcade mode is nice if I want to brush up my skills or pass the time, but since I don’t have many local friends at the ready, Nidhogg 2 supporting online play has been reliable and rad. It’s worth noting, however, that if the official Nintendo page is anything to go by, Nidhogg 2 requires the Switch’s paid online service.
If you have friends over often or enjoy competitive play online, Nidhogg 2 definitely deserves a place on your Switch. Aside from the odd corpse glitch online, I’ve little to complain about here.
I don’t use review scores here at Cheap Boss Attack, so hopefully you find the above text far more informative than an arbitrary number or a sequence of shaded-in star shapes. Have any questions about the game that weren’t answered in the review? Sound off down in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them without spoilers.
Full disclaimer: A digital copy of Nidhogg 2 for the Nintendo Switch was provided for the purpose of this review.