Nicholas DeBlasio ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
One of the things that really sets indie games apart from the AAAs is their ability to experiment and do crazy stuff—while the big franchises tend to follow a tried-and-true approach, indie developers need something surprising, if not ridiculous, to get their games noticed. So when Brace Yourself Games decided to make a new roguelike adventure RPG, they needed to put a new spin on it. While other roguelike games are a dungeon crawl, Crypt of the NecroDancer is a dungeon dance-off. No, seriously.
Protagonist and player character Cadence delves into the eponymous dungeon in search of her missing father. She enters the crypt only to have her heart cursed by the evil NecroDancer, binding her soul to the beat of Danny Baranowsky’s excellent original soundtrack. To reclaim her father and her soul, Cadence must dance her way to the bottom of the crypt to the NecroDancer’s rhythm, learning the moves of the skeletons, oozes, ghosts, and other horrors as she makes her way to the final boss. Never mind the Song of Ice and Fire series, this game is literally a dance with dragons.
Crypt of the Necrodancer delivers a fresh and lighthearted take on dungeon crawl RPGs. Going through a dungeon crawl is a lot cooler when you’re literally dancing with death and putting the “beat” in “beatdown.” If you don’t keep with the beat, you lose your move and your gold bonus. But the beat is the easy part, and having a good sense of rhythm won’t win you the game. In this game, victory is achieved through observation and timing, as each of the four stages is filled with monsters who all have unique attack patterns that follow the beat. Learning their tricks and “dancing” with them is the only way to defeat them, and while their patterns seem simple at first, being faced with a room full of different enemies can be a prediction headache, especially since you only have a literal heartbeat to make your next move.
The random aspects of the game can also make it more of a luck-based endeavor than a strictly skill-based one. The random dungeon generation might spawn the floor’s miniboss a room away from your starting point, meaning you have to face it without any power-ups or weapons. Moreover, those power-ups and weapons are also distributed randomly, and it might be a while before you get anything useful. The game tries to counteract this by allowing the player to “clean” certain items from the spawn list, so if there’s an item that doesn’t help you or you just don’t like, you can get rid of it and make for a better chance of getting something more useful while in the dungeon. It’s a good feature, but it still doesn’t prevent you from being dependent on fate to clear the stage.
The only downside to the core mechanic of the game is that you have to move to the beat always, even in the lobby. This makes moving around a bit too paced when you need to cross an entire room, and it can get a bit annoying. The game provides an alternative, however, with unlockable characters whose abilities affect gameplay. The only character besides the default Cadence to be unlocked from the beginning is the Bard, whose ability removes the beat, allowing you to move freely, and monsters will instead use your own moves as cues. This can be especially useful for getting certain unlockables and slowly observing monsters for practice, or for those who are generally uninterested in the beat-based aspect of the game. However, the lack of a beat also makes the experience a bit less fun, since it removes the most interesting aspect of the game.
With a unique and fun spin on it, coupled with optional elements to balance its shortcomings, Crypt of the NecroDancer is altogether immensely entertaining and honestly quite addicting. There are a few fundamental snags, but the soundtrack rocks, the aesthetics pop, and overall, it’s a game you can really get jazzed up about playing.
Overall Rating: 8/10