Have you ever wondered what would happen if you mixed DDR, math, and dungeon crawling? YOU HAVE NOW!
The plot of Crypt of the Necrodancer is that your heart has been stolen by… (Wait for it…) The Necrodancer. Now, you can only move to the beat of music, as your blood only beats to the … Beat? That sentence worked better in my head, but I am going to stick with it. If you move outside of the beat, you take damage, and all of the enemies in the aforementioned crypt can also only move to the beat. Some will move on every beat, some every second, third, or fourth, and in the deeper levels of the Crypt you will find yourself independently performing beat counts for 7 or 8 sprites at any given time (that is where the math portion comes in).
Like any good dungeon crawling rogue-like game, you start out very weak and power yourself up as time goes on. Recently, BoSTV had a race tournament for the game, and the speculation as to which equipment would be taken (when a choice was offered) by the commentators really opened my eyes not just to the depth of the game but to how much thinking goes into any decision. “Oh, he took the whip. Well, that is a powerful weapon, but only if you are incredibly confident, and can keep everything on the screen in focus at any given time.” There are some weapons that are easier to use; but weaker, and all of the most powerful weapons tend to have a huge drawback making you think twice before grabbing it. That is the sign of a good, well balanced game–each weapon comes in several types, as well. A standard version, an obsidian version (the damage increases as your combo increases, but if you miss a beat it becomes very weak), a gold version (extra money on kill), a blood version (restores health every 10 kills), and a glass version (by far the most powerful, but if you take a hit or miss a beat, it breaks and you are left with the weakest item in the whole game). When you see, on the ground, a glass rapier (the only item in the game capable of killing anything but a boss in a single strike), you have to balance many things in your head before making the dive and grabbing it.
Now, this is an early access game in something of the true sense of the word. Currently, there are only three major sections of the Crypt (though the third section is wildly difficult), and the music selection is fairly sparse. To be fair to the game, each level has its own song, so you won’t have repeats (except when you die. Repeatedly. And horribly). The game, ironically enough, is nearly glitch free; that is definitely something the AAA devs can’t say even after they go full release mode.
The game is fun, I think it is important I put this here. It is frustrating. Short. And fun. (Insert your own joke here.)
The graphics are inspired by the SNES era, and if you are into pixel art you will definitely find something to love here. There are reused/recolored assets, but honestly you will come to appreciate that because enemies that share a specific sprite tend to have similar behaviour; this will drastically simplify your mental calculations when you are dealing with dicier situations.
Something that is fun (for me) about this Early Access is that the dev does a few things very, very right. First, the dev himself sponsored a tournament (race through all levels) with a grand prize of $2,000. In this case, everybody wins; the game’s balance is tested, the players get entertainment, and someone wins $2000, $1000 (second place), or $500 (third place). Another fun thing is that the devs are constantly trying new things; new weapons, new weapon types, new characters, new balance. It doesn’t feel like the mess that some beta testing games are, it all feels organized and (I can’t say this enough times) fun.
Interestingly enough, a race from start to finish on this game (by a very skilled player) can last about 5 minutes. Last I checked, the full clear record was in the four minute range. That being said you won’t beat the game in your first several hours, and that just goes to highlight how simple the concept is but how much time you may spend mastering it.
If you find you are having troubles, don’t worry! They’ve got your back. There is a rather extensive leader board (tracks records such as speed of clear, or score based on how much gold you collected, etc), and you can choose one, sit back, and watch the replay. I am not sure where they are storing all the replay data, but I am happy to assume it is magic. Awesome magic.
Not only is there an extensive leader board, but there are training rooms; you can pick a boss to practice against, or a weapon to practice with (the whip. That is the weapon everyone needs to practice with. And even then, it will lead you to your doom more often than it will save your life, but it has so much potential.)
I enjoy the theme as well. All of the enemies don’t just move to the beat- they dance to the beat.
It brings you into the world. Until you stab them horribly to death, but whatever. Still fun.
If you are into the rogue-like genre, supporting an awesome indie dev who loves to interact with the community (and will often have your suggestion implemented in the game before any other dev would even have read your suggestion), or you want a very different kind of rhythm game, this is a really great bet. The only drawback is the current lack of content, but like I said; they’re adding more very frequently.
Crypt of the Necrodancer
Game Score - 8.5/10
A unique blend of rogue-like elements, dungeon crawling, loot, math, and rhythm, this is definitely a game that has its own niche. Don’t let that deter you, though; it is fun, which is something that can’t be said of way too many games these days.