Okay, I went back and played through the original Nidhogg. Not a fan, honestly. Levels repeat a ton (and at least one of the game’s few levels that repeat is insufferable to play through because the busy background and simple graphics clash in a big way). The fundamentals of Nidhogg 1 and 2 are the same, but there are several areas where the second game is a marked improvement over the first.
First, though: neener
I got lucky and had a bunch of enemies who chased after me upon being disarmed rather than going off-screen to respawn with a weapon. That really shaves a lot of time off. Part of me thinks that I could do better with a little more luck, but I’m not going to push it and limit myself to a single (less fun) style of playing. Especially since my time will be wiped off the face of this earth once the game releases.
Differences between Nidhogg 1 and 2
Keeping in mind that I played through the single-player part of the first Nidhogg and fought all of the dudes until I got my play time at the end, there are some obvious differences between the two games. The most striking is that the first Nidhogg is a bit faster, which makes it slightly harder when playing against the computer. The animation also has fewer frames than the second game’s animations, so it looks a bit choppier/jerkier and thus harder to follow the movement.
The stages in the first game repeat over and over and over again, and I really wouldn’t call any of them particularly well designed. Facing enemies in tunnels is awkward since it removes the jumping attack, and there are also cloud platforms that disappear under you. Backgrounds are chaotic and distracting, too, and one level has foreground grass that covers your character. The second game improves on all of that, with the single-player portion of the game having far more stages (and never reusing them, so each level is a different stage). The art also avoids being too distracting apart from the last portion of the first stage where an orange enemy respawns in front of some fire that makes it difficult to see him, leading to some cheap deaths. There are also a few places where I had trouble telling whether some background art was a foreground platform or not on my first time through, but that’s a minor quibble. I haven’t seen any platforms that disappear under characters (though there are pits that can be leveraged to knock a stubborn enemy into), either, and while the foreground grass returns, it’s not as tall as in the first game:
Of course, you can’t kind of see through it like in the first game, either, so that one probably comes down more to personal taste than the others.
More than anything, it feels less arbitrary
There were a number of times in Nidhogg 1 that an enemy spawned inside a doorway right as I was about to walk through it, leading me to impale myself on their sword before I could stop or attack. Sometimes it felt like half the game was luck and the other half was manipulating where enemies respawned by not running as far ahead as you potentially could. The second game’s respawns are much more predictable, though, and the slightly slower pace means that your movement and attacks feel much more deliberate and weighty. Basically, while this is still the kind of game that could destroy a friendship and/or controller, dying is much more a case of player failure than the arbitrary respawn gods deciding that you’re doing too well.
The only things I don’t like as far as the pace is concerned are the later arcade stages that have you cycle between equipped weapons upon each death. Like, you start with a rapier and then get a knife the next time you die and respawn, and then a bow after that. The problem with this is that I couldn’t find any indication of which arcade stage has which cycle of weapons (they’re all different), and I was picking up so many weapons from the ground that I honestly thought that the weapons were randomized until I saw that you could change the order in multiplayer. Since you’ll often respawn and need to react to an enemy quickly and all weapons have different speeds, how well you do in these situations can feel a bit random. Some kind of pre-respawn indication of what weapon you’ll be using would go a long way, or at least some kind of indication on the stage select screen.
As promised, I tried keyboard and mouse controls
The first thing to point out about not using a controller is that you have to navigate the menus using WASD by default, but the mouse shows up (and is obviously viable for the others as a result) when you go to rebind the keys. That’s a bit strange. Speaking of which, the default scheme is that WASD controls your up/down/left/right movement, the F key attacks, and the G key jumps. I immediately changed jump to the space bar and attack to the number 5 key so that I could jump comfortably with my left hand and do nothing but attack with my right. Too cramped otherwise.
This control switch took some getting used to, but I started to see after 10-20 minutes how the precision of keys could lend itself well to high-level play. There have been a few times where I’ve gone to throw my weapon with the controller and it doesn’t take (or I aim for a high strike and accidentally throw my weapon away), and that’s the kind of thing that the keyboard eliminates since there’s no middle ground between pressing a key and not pressing it. The only downside I found after acclimating is that rolling isn’t quite as smooth a process as on the gamepad.
The credits are bugged
You can hear it in the video above, but the credits play the windows error sound over and over again, presumably because the credits music can’t be found. I don’t think I’m going to mention it in my review, though, because it seems like the kind of thing that’ll either be fixed by launch or shortly thereafter. Luckily (or not, depending on your perspective), I managed to find a few weird physics quirks that could be considered bugs. Only recorded one of them, sadly, but that should be enough.