Rhythm and Roguelike were two game genres I NEVER expected to go together. Yet somehow, Crypt of the Necrodancer manages it, and incredibly well at that. The beat-based gameplay has now kept me hypnotised for a total of 50 hours and I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to stop any time soon. Let’s take a look at just what Crypt of the Necrodancer does so well.
You might think jamming two radically different genres together would result in some daunting controls that scare the player off before they even start yet in Crypt of the Necrodancer they are simple and easy-to-learn yet hard to master. Playing only requires the use of four keys. The left, right, up and down arrows. With these four simple keys you will do everything from hop around the dungeon, stab slime’s, fire crossbow bolts and place bombs. You move around with the arrow keys and attack enemies by walking into them and perform slightly more complicated actions such as reloading a crossbow or using an item by pressing two of the keys at once. All of this you do to the beat of your heart and the tempo of the music. Each beat acts as a turn with enemies moving and attacking in their special pattern whether you move with them or not. This means that as well as being a rhythm roguelike, Necrodancer is also somehow a turn-based strategy game with an incredibly fast-pace. It’s a bizarre blend but one that works amazingly well and clicks after just a few minutes of playing. Heck, it’s so simply complicated that you can play it on a dance pad if you have one lying around albeit with a slightly easier difficulty. No joke.
Then you might think: “But if it’s that simple, wouldn’t it get boring after a short while?”. Crypt of the Necrodancer works around this problem by keeping the already enjoyable gameplay fresh with various items and weapons that mix up the gameplay. There are crossbows which can be fired from a distance but require a turn of reloading to use again leaving you open to attack, broadswords that attack the three tiles in front and front-diagonal to you(if that makes sense) and flail’s that knock enemies back yet I found myself favouring the rapier. You deal double damage if you hit enemies from two tiles away yet also charge forward when doing so leaving you vulnerable and giving your attacks a bigger feeling of risk. All of these weapons also come in different types with different bonuses such as blood weapons that replenish your health after killing a certain amount of enemies. This, coupled with the various other items such as armour, torches, shovels, spells and scrolls makes every playthrough feel unique and different which is a blessing for a roguelike game where you will be dying and repeating stages a lot.
As well as this, there are a multitude of characters with different playstyles that shake up the gameplay. When playing Cadence, the standard character, you attack and move normally without any restrictions or special rules. The other characters, rather than give you different abilities with different bonuses, advantages and disadvantages like in games such as Super Smash Bros., offer new challenges for the experienced player. Monk dies instantly if he picks up gold but can pick up a single item from the shop for free, Melody only does one damage but damages enemies as she walks past them and the INSANE Aria- who took me 30 of the 50 hours to complete the game with-only has half a heart, can only use the dagger and dies upon missing a beat/turn. I’ve actually heard of characters that are *shudder* even harder than Aria but I don’t think I’ll be attempting to beat the game with them… not any time soon at least. Because of this, the game has quite a lot of replayability for its price(£10.99).
I also really liked the art and enemy design for the game, especially the bosses. The bosses are, in my opinion, the epitome of creativity. Each of the four main bosses is based off a type of music. Deep Blues is a Blues band set out like a game of chess with the musicians being pawns and the queen being the lounge singer. Coral Riff is bass guitar turned upside-down to look like a Kraken and different instruments being its tentacles. Death Metal is the grim reaper with a scythe that doubles as a mic for him to scream threats into. The creativity is astounding, even the normal enemies such as the skeletons are a joy to look at as they shake their hips to the beat.
Now I can finally talk about the driving force behind the game, the music. Danny Baranowsky, the composer deserves an award for the sheer amount of pulse-pounding, epic tracks in the game. There are almost 150 in total which is nothing to be scoffed at, especially since every single one of them had me grooving to the beat, even the lobby music. It’s so infectious, I’m listening to it now as I write this review. Give it a listen, you will NOT be disappointed. Necrodancer also uses a unique ‘Boneshaker’ beat detection software to determine the tempo of the songs which means you can even dance along to your own music while playing the game. Unfortunately, it’s a double-edged blade as many songs, mainly ones with tempo’s that change throughout the song-which means a lot-don’t work well at all and often hinder you and make it harder to play to the point where I just gave up completely. I had to do a search just to find songs that work well enough that the game is playable. What makes it worse however, is that you can’t get achievements if you use any custom music and it doesn’t make you aware of this. It may not bother some people but for an achievement hunter like me, when I completed Floor 3 after three hours of continuous playtime only to find out I didn’t get the achievement, I was quite annoyed that I had to complete Floor 3 AGAIN to get the achievement.
Crypt of the Necrodancer is a game that ought to be celebrated, if not for the fun and satisfying gameplay or the brilliant art and enemy design, for so successfully fusing two massively different genres together. It is a game I can highly recommend to, well, anyone, even those who wouldn’t otherwise like rhythm and/or roguelike games. A warning though, you may be unable to stop headbanging for hours after just a short session. Not that that’s a bad thing.
- Rocking, electronic soundtrack
- Easy-to-learn yet hard to master gameplay
- Lot’s of replayability
- Creative bosses and enemies
- Beautiful art design and graphics
- Every new playthrough is fresh and different
- Different characters offer different challenges
- ‘Boneshaker’ system doesn’t work well with most custom songs
- Can’t earn achievements while using custom songs
- Upgrade system in the lobby eventually becomes pointless
Buy it here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/247080/