Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Stab and run, stab and run, throw your sword and… It stabs. Now run, dive kick, slide and roll. These verbs are all that Nidhogg contains, but with them comes personal tactics, personal rivalries, and some of the best local multiplayer ever made.
My experience with Nidhogg is slightly different than most: years before it was released for sale, developer Mark Essen sent early builds of the game to press. That meant we had a copy of it in the office where I then worked, and we would play it in breaks over weeks, months, years. Every time we did, it would draw a crowd.
Nidhogg’s simple set of moves makes it approachable and, to spectators, readable, but the simplicity also lends itself to stalemates as two players jab swords against one another, to risky maneuvers as one player tries to break that stalemate, and to consequently dramatic escapes, dodges, reversals and victories. Audiences and players whoop and holler alike.
This release version, when it did finally arrive, improved the art, the music, and added netcode. Unfortunately the netcode sucked, but the core game remained incredible. It’s worth making friends for.