Crypt of the Necrodancer
Fuck me, what a great game.
Disclaimer – I swear everything here’s subjectively objective. It might sound too good to be true, but it’s not.
Where do I start? With the amazing soundtrack from Danny Baranowski (who continues to live up to his amazing standard)? With the way Brace Yourself Games de-constructed dungeon crawling and rebuilt it with fast-paced turn-based combat which keeps you aware of everything on screen? The excellent mechanics, ranging from the way different weapon drops impact your play style to the way a shrine can let you either cruise along, or fight tooth and nail for each agonising beat? This game’s got it all. It really does. It’s a 5/5. 10/10. 100/100. GG no re. Want to know why? Go play it. It’s amazing. But, if you need convincing, I’m happy to talk you through the finer points.
Let’s start with the basics of the game play. The game is split into four levels, each with four floors. To finish a floor, you have to find the floor’s miniboss, kill it, find the stairs, then go down the stairs. On the fourth floor, however, there is a big boss-fight (randomly chosen from a pool), which you must beat before moving on to the next series of floors. Neat.
As you may have ascertained, you’ll be dungeon crawling. This is roughly where Crypt departs from traditional rogue-li(te)(ke) dungeon crawlers, and becomes its own unique beats. The floor is split up into small squares, like a chess board. With each beat of the floor’s soundtrack, you get the opportunity to move one square (with the mobs on the floor moving immediately afterwards). Miss a beat, and you lose a coin multiplier and everything else on the floor gets a move. This is a little difficult to get used to at first, as you’re forced to anticipate every mob’s movement, prioritise targets, plan your path, and stay in time with the music all at once; but once you get into the groove of things, it’s an amazing experience. You become one with the game, and feel accomplished for memorising every monster’s movement patterns, and being able to navigate and kill each one. Movement is very responsive, with any skipped beats being your own fault. There’s no delay between hitting a key and moving, so you’re completely responsible for any navigational errors.
Of course, this makes the music a major factor in this game. I’m not usually a music guy, but Danny Baranowski was 100% the right guy to bring in for this job. Each floor has its own feel and pace. The first level, for example, has a very slow, plodding, pace in order to warm you up. The second floor has a faster pace, getting you amped up and thinking, and the third floor’s slightly kinder, to give you a chance to prepare for the boss fight. With the tempo of each floor determining how often you move, and how quickly you have to make decisions, it’s impossible not to split your attention with the excellent sound-track. The game play really works, and it’s the music that allows everything to be pulled off as well as it is.
Speaking of music, the shopkeeper gets his own paragraph. I’m in love with the idea of the shop keeper. Like traditional dungeon-crawlers, there’s a guy on every floor who’ll sell you stuff. Big deal. You can kill him if you want, and steal his shit, or you can pony up the cash for whatever bit of tasty gear you want. BUT. This dude sings. He hums along with the floor’s track, letting you find him by sound. The further away you are, you’ll either not hear him, or hear a faint singing. The closer you get, the louder it is. It’s minor, but I love it.
What I don’t love is the story. It’s not really there. I mean it’s there, you get a cut scene after every boss, but it’s more of a means to an end. It’s justification for the mechanics. To be honest I haven’t watched the opening cut scene since the first time I launched the game so I’m not 100% on the story, but I don’t have to be. I’m pretty sure the title gives it away. You’re exploring the crypt of the Necrodancer, trying to hunt him down and kill him.
I mean, yeah. There’s a shit load more out there, and it all works. There’s cool stuff like all the excellent (and average) items you unlock by collecting the diamonds scattered around the floors (with deeper floors having more diamonds), secret teleporters, shrines which give bonuses or curses, and floor traps. They’re all either dungeon-crawling standards, or just extra bonuses not worth going into detail about. It’s all good. Like, seriously. If you like dungeon crawlers, this is for you. If you like amazing game play, this is for you. Everything’s amazing. Why? Because Brace Yourself Games just managed to make a game that’s solid from top to bottom. I can’t really review it, because I can see no fault.
Here, have some shitty game play footage of a 10/10 game.