Bushido Blade by way of Prince of Persia, Nidhogg is one of the best local multiplayer games I've played in years. Its surreal looks and beautiful animation are the perfect canvas for you to project your own childhood sword fighting fantasies: Highlander, Star Wars, that time you fought your mate to a standstill with sticks while making lightsaber noises: It'll all come back, and you'll be laughing over – and enjoying – every second.
Your objective is to kill your opponent by out-thinking as well as out-stabbing them. High, middle and low stances complicate (and can cancel out) the fencing element, but you'll also have rolling, dive-kicking, neck-snapping and sword-throwing to contend with.
After you've struck your opponent down you have to then run past them; get far enough in the direction they were initially guarding (usually a few screens) and you'll win. Your character is then consumed by the eponymous giant Scandinavian dragon serpent. That's Nidhogg, really: quick, unforgiving and totally bizarre. I like it a lot.
The epitome of pick-up-and-play, every time I tried to walk someone through the controls they'd kill me before I even got to the 'stab' button. Ungracious on their part, but it also shows how immediately you can and should start playing. Nidhogg wants you to learn as you go along (especially with a broken tutorial) and my favourite moments so far have involved a realisation that the gameplay isn't quite as basic as it originally appeared.
It's superb, and should take pride of place next to Mount Your Friends on your (digital) shelf of party games. There is a single-player element, but it would be generous to describe it as anything other than a warm-up to the main event. While the online multiplayer may eventually provide an alternative, it's laggy and unpredictable in its current state. Nidhogg is a game to be enjoyed with friends while in the same room together, and it may be the best title you play that way this year.
Played for 3 hours.