This stick-figure Western is one of the funniest games in ages – A.V. Club

Nidhogg 2

A few years back, there was a rush of attention to The New Arcade, a wave of games focused on in-person competition: Sportsfriends, TowerFall, Push Me Pull You, Screencheat, Samurai Gunn, Starwhal, and so on. They seemed to be an antidote to the anonymous aggression of more popular first-person shooters, replacing headsets and matchmaking with local multiplayer, such that shit talk didnt devolve into racial epithets and rage-quits but friendly ribbing. They even served as a sort of icebreaker. It recalled the four-player slumber-party game-a-thons of the Nintendo 64 era or the pleasures of an afternoon spent over a tabletop game rather than the enveloping isolation of a day spent in Halos thrall.

Of these New Arcade games, Nidhogg was one of the stars. The side-scrolling fighter oozed style, with psychedelic washes of color and an uptempo soundtrack by Daedalus, as well as mordant wit: Each battle climaxes in the winner running into the open jaws of a giant, flying dragon. To do so, though, you had to get past your opponent, soaring over obstacles and conveyor belts while engaging in lightning-quick sword duels. Defeat your opponent and you could sprint, at least for awhile, toward your goal before she reemerged to block your path. Lose, and shed take off past you, attempting to make her way toward her own finish line and the glorious dragon death.

It was compulsively playable, with matches that sometimes stretched into 10-minute epics that all came down to one tense sword fight atop a drawbridge. While designer Mark Essen seemingly spent forever on the original, carting it out mostly for massive gaming parties like San Franciscos Wild Rumpus, Chicagos Bit Bash, or New Yorks No Quarter, where hed introduce some new wrinkle that mayve disappeared by the next time you saw it, he banged out its sequel relatively quickly. Nidhogg 2 honors the precision of the original games design by not breaking anything, instead adding a ton of detailed new levels, a preposterous create-a-character mode that envisions an army of goblins designed by R. Crumb, and a couple new weapons that inspire new holy shit moments. (Try thwacking away an opponents arrow.)

It is, accordingly, an absolute blast, assuming you have a couple controllers, friends, a variety of beers and other intoxicants, and a night to spend screaming at each other. But it also suffers from the same problem as its predecessor and all the games of the New Arcade: impracticality. Its a game designed for a remarkably specific settingwith a handful of players of different skill levels coming and going, and preferably with a crowd of spectators on hand to cheer on and collapse in agony with each defeat. Its far too intense to play for an extended stretch, and played online or in single-player is like setting up some Solo cups and playing a game of beer pong by yourself. Other canonical party gamesnamely those by Nintendo, like Smash Bros. and Mario Kartcracked the nut on single-player with intensely honed AI and a clearly defined sense of progression. But Nidhogg 2 is so tightly designed around the space of a party for all thatand, to be fair, still made by a single personand so it stays laser-focused on the task at hand. The result is arguably the best game ever made for an incredibly specific scenario; for anyone else, your mileage may vary.

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This stick-figure Western is one of the funniest games in ages – A.V. Club

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