The Steam early access phenomenon, the roguelike with a twist, a unique combination of dungeon exploration mixed with Dance Dance Revolution style rhythm mechanics, this is Crypt of the NecroDancer.
Developer: Brace Yourself Games
Publisher: Brace Yourself Games
Reviewed on: Windows PC
Also Available On: Mac OSX, Linux
Release Date: Out Now
In the game you take on the role of Cadence, a young adventurer searching the titular crypt for her missing father. On her adventure, Cadence will find new and powerful tools and weapons as well as unlocking new playable characters, all the while moving to the beat of the background music.
If you think this sounds a little bizarre, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Mastering the rhythm mechanics is essential for your very survival as Cadence and her friends cannot move or attack outside of the beats of the soundtrack itself, precision timing will help you progress easily.
The great news is, the audio is superb. The electronic beats are great to listen to and even better to play along with, play Crypt of the NecroDancer for long enough and you’ll find yourself dancing along as you play (maybe that’s just me). The soundtrack is the very essence of the game, it’s the key ingredient and while the developer could have gone for something simple, purely for the purpose of the beat, what they’ve brought to the game is worthy of praise on its own.
If however, the in-game music isn’t to your liking, or you can’t quite hit the beat on a particular tune then don’t worry because Brace Yourself Games have you covered. The developers have opted to allow players to fully customise the music, giving you the ability to play along to the songs on your hard drive, the algorithm isn’t perfect, but it’s still a fun option.
There’s much more to Crypt of the NecroDancer then just a rhythm mechanic though, a dance game this is not. This is a dungeon-crawling roguelike with an array of things to keep you coming back for more. Top of the list is the randomized level structure, no two experiences are the same, no two levels contain the same bad guys. This certainly adds a level of difficulty to the game but once you’ve mastered the beats, this makes sure you don’t bore of the game easily.
The biggest issue is permadeath, die once and you’re heading back to the start of the game. This can be a little frustrating in the early days as you’re learning the game, but luckily Crypt of the NecroDancer does have a number of features to help you overcome the hindrance that is death.
Influenced by the likes of Rogue Legacy, there are plenty of options for weapon and magic upgrades, as well as permanent upgrade options to help with the inevitable restart or two you’ll face along the way.
The hidden gem in this game though, something that sets it apart from other roguelikes (not including the rhythm mechanics that is), is the ability to play local co-operative mode. Why head into the abyss alone when you can drag one of your good friends along for the ride as well?
Admittedly, I’ve only had a chance to play co-op with my seven-year-old daughter but after a bit of trial and error, this turned out to be incredibly funny, insanely frustrating at times but funny. The key here is for both players to stay in sync to survive, imagine how difficult that can be, it could ruin friendships along the way. If you’ve got more friends available locally than me then this mode can be a blessing given some of the tough bosses you’ll encounter in the game.
Controls are ridiculously simple with almost the entire gameplay using the four arrow keys, provided you’re in time with the beats of the music, killing bad guys is as simple as running into them using the directional controls. To be fair to Crypt of the NecroDancer though, there’s a bit more to it than that.
The levels are laid out on a square grid system, there’s no diagonal movement here I’m afraid. Despite that though, the game has a turn-based mechanic based around the beats of the music, it’s hard to fully explain but master this and you’ll have a lot more control over battle strategy.
Please don’t take the minimalist control scheme as a sign that this game is either basic or easy because it’s neither of the two, the simple controls just help you master the game quickly and it works well to get you into the action within seconds of your first load. Even the more advanced functions, such as bombs and spells can be accessed by pressing multiple arrow keys at once.
If the keyboard is not your thing then the developers have one more surprise in store, ready for this? Brace Yourself Games have made Crypt of the NecroDancer fully compatible with a dance pad, yep the dance pad is making a comeback people. If you imagine playing the game using the keyboard arrow buttons then it’s quite easy to translate that into the four arrows you can find on a dance pad, it’s a superb novelty if you happen to own a dance pad.
The one issue with this game is the fact that each levels music is static, meaning that if you find it incredibly difficult to master the rhythm-based gameplay, you’ll likely to hear the same 4 songs on repeat as to restart the game. This could have a significant impact on how long a player will stick with the game, the frustration of hearing the same music over and over can be anger-inducing.
Of course Brace Yourself Games have already thought of this and not only allowed you to add your own custom music into the mix but also made it possible for you to get help from a friend when the need arises.
Overall though, this is a game for those looking for a quick distraction, it’s a casual players game, fun in small bursts and fun with a friend but this isn’t going to be the game you sit down with for an all night session.
Crypt of the NecroDancer is a unique experience and one that is definitely recommended, it’s not quite perfect but surprisingly close. With a variety of gameplay options available despite such a simplistic control set-up, fun visuals and an awesome soundtrack, this game is a true testament to what great game design can create.
The game is currently available from Steam for PC, Mac OSX and Linux.