Crypt of the Necrodancer Review: Get That Rhythm Right

May 4th, 2015 -

Since 1980’s Rogue appeared, there have been many Roguelike games to grace computers. In recent years, there have been many trying to implement their own ideas in dungeon crawling, but none have captured the attention of fans and non-fans of the genre like the melding of dungeons with rhythm.

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My first experience with Crypt of the Necrodancer was at GDC 2014. No matter when you went to the indie section of the hall, you would hear people cheering as someone was grooving on a dance-pad to the funky beats of Danny Baranowsky while traversing dungeons. The game was a huge hit with streamers all throughout its life in Early Access, and has now reached the point of full release. It was so successful that by the time it officially launched, it was rated the third best game on Steam. Third. Best. Game. On Steam. There are a lot of games on Steam, some of which may be your all time favorites. In all likelihood, your favorite wasn’t rated number one or two – deal with it.

If you’ve never played a Roguelike, chances are you will find it extremely difficult. With each movement you make on the procedurally generated grid levels, your enemies will also move. In most games you are able to choose your next move after studying the playing field, but that’s not the case here (unless you play as the Bard). When you enter the Crypt, all movements are based on the beat of the song. If you attempt to move offbeat, you lose your gold multiplier and the floor loses that disco flair. You also fail to make any progress. The same is true if you miss a beat because you want to stay still, perhaps to read what an item does at the shop, or if you try to do an action you are incapable of performing. When playing, always be moving, and know what you can and can’t do – it’s the only way to succeed.

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Upon each run you’ll come across different pickups, most of them pertaining to your current run, such as weapons, armor, food for health regen, etc. But there are also diamonds which serve as a way to boost your starting health and the change the items you’ll come across during your runs. Of course, this only lasts for so long. You won’t become a walking tank by dying within the first dungeon over and over thanks to upgrades from the diamonds. But they will definitely help supplement the difficulty by giving you that slight edge if you’re lucky enough to find the new item in a chest or have enough money to purchase it at from the shopkeep. And by the time you have everything the diamonds can unlock, chances are you’ll be better at the game. In the event you are still having trouble, try a different play style by using a character you unlock. Each playable character in unique, such as using bombs only, or not being allowed to pick up gold. Of course, to be able to do that, you need to be good enough to unlock them, and that comes with experience (read: dying a lot).

A major portion of the game is reading the room you are in and the enemies you are faced with – if you can’t do that, you’ll never win. The monsters you come across don’t stray from their movement patterns, so if you can figure out when a slime will move into your square or another, you’re almost guaranteed to make it to the minibosses of the first level. Bad news: you might get killed by a dragon. Luckily for you, the room with the miniboss(es) isn’t a closed off affair, meaning you can lure the enemies into a nicer area, if you prefer. Hell, there are some monsters that will come to you, as you watch the screen shake while they destroy the walls in their way. That mechanic isn’t exclusive to enemies though – if there are dirt walls around (or other types of walls, depending on your shovel), you can dig through them to find hidden areas, items, or use it as a way to reposition the monsters.

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There are a couple of ways to progress through the game, though the main two you’ll discover involve killing the minibosses and going down the stairs they protect, or the level’s song ending (the beats at the bottom will turn red as this time approaches). As you enter the next level, you’ll be greeted by a similar group of enemies, a new song, and another prisoner for you to free if you haven’t made it this far yet. This goes on four times, and at the end of the fourth, you will be graced with the presence of a boss. The boss is randomly chosen each time through, so you’ll never know which to expect – and they are always a fun change from what you’ve been doing, making great use of the music. Once you finish the first zone, you’ll be faced with all new enemies, music, and a dungeon theme. Following that pattern, you’ll be faced with four zones, and while that may sound short, bear in mind that the fourth zone wasn’t added until the full release and is a challenge for even the most devoted fans that played the Early Access version to death.

While Crypt of the Necrodancer very much utilizes randomness in its gameplay, it’s fair in how it plays. It’s likely you will always understand why you died, and learn how to better approach a situation that killed you. And with that knowledge, it’s difficult to not say “just one more time” with the promise of getting further. Add in the fact that the game has local co-op, daily runs with leaderboards, and is playable at an easier setting with a dancepad, and this is one of the most fun ways to work up a sweat. Fusing rhythm gameplay with a Roguelike seems so natural and hypnotic, I’m amazed no one thought of it before. And it helps that DannyB, A_Rival, and FamilyJules7x all kill it with the original OST and the remixes, respectively.

BUY

Pros

  • Funky Beats
  • Addictive Gameplay
  • Variation Amongst Characters

Cons

  • Time-sink (only bad for those with responsibilities)

Crypt of the Necrodancer was developed by Brace Yourself Games and published in conjunction with Klei Entertainment. The game left Early Access on PC April 23, 2015 for $14.99. The PC copy reviewed was provided for us. If you’d like to see more of Crypt of the Necrodancer, check out the official site.

 

Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.

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