Crypt of the Necrodancer – What We Think
Mixing dungeon-crawling with rhythm action, Crypt of the Necrodancer is a game quite unlike anything else out there. It was released on July 30th of 2014 as an Early Access game, and has received a slew of patches and upgrades since then with new items and playable characters.
Developer Ryan Clark/Brace Yourself Games, is constantly adding new features, and while the core gameplay remains intact, it’s a pleasure to be able to come back with a fresh perspective and plenty of new things to try.
DDR Dungeon Crawl
The main story revolves around a girl named Cadence who, while looking for her father, tumbles into the crypt of the Necrodancer and is knocked unconscious. The Necrodancer then curses her heart to beat to the music eternally.
Cadence isn’t alone. Several monsters lurk within the crypt who have also been cursed to move and attack in rhythm with the music. Each enemy possesses an attack pattern, which means that the player must take full advantage of their surroundings to dispose of them while also staying on beat.
Movement will be hindered the moment a beat is missed, and the only way to increase gold income throughout the game is to stay in rhythm as long as possible. Each zone contains 3 levels and a boss fight at the end, but there are no save points. When you die, the run is over, and the entire zone will need to be restarted again.
Catchy Music to Die For
The music is a major component to the success of Necrodancer; all of the songs were developed by none other than Danny Baranowsky, the composer for Binding of Isaac, Super Meatboy, and several other titles. The engine is capable of allowing you to also use your own mp3’s however.
Each level offers a unique track with different rhythm and beats that must be mastered in order to progress deeper into the zone. For example, the 1st level of zone 1 is relatively slow and good for beginners who are getting accustomed to the controls. Later levels are not nearly as merciful, and each zone turns the difficulty up a notch. Zone 3 is the toughest by far. I’ve had Necrodancer since its release and am still unable to manage the faster track and the onslaught of enemies that know exactly where to move to get me killed.
Items, Get Thine Items Here
There are a ton of items in Necrodancer that are meant to help you survive just a little bit longer: from weapons – that all have a different attack pattern – to armor, magical accessories, food to replenish health, and nifty spells that can turn the tide of an otherwise horrible situation. The best part of having such a vast array of items is the fact that there are a number of choices to be made while scouring the levels; which combination of items will help you survive?
No weapon felt too powerful. Ranged weapons, which are normally ideal in most situations, don’t work nearly as well versus certain bosses and require a recharge time, which promises quick death when surrounded by a horde of enemies. An accessory called the Ring of War grants you extra attack power and a knockback effect, but at the cost of spawning more enemies throughout the zone. Spells have a recharge time and knowing when and where to use them can directly affect how hard the run will be.
A Little Bit of Luck
Keep in mind that each level and all of the items are randomly generated as well, which can be bittersweet; I might have the smoothest dungeon run with everything I need to survive (as was the case in one situation where I found a great weapon early on and beat the entire zone without an issue.)
On the other hand, I might have nothing more than a dagger for the first few levels, which, depending on the zone, can mean death itself. As aggravating as this can be, it makes every run different and unique, and there’s no better feeling than to come across an item that goes on to help you survive the levels and the boss fight at the end.
Speaking of boss fights, while there are only 3 bosses currently, each fight is incredibly memorable and covers a specific genre of music. I have never fought a boss to the beat of a conga song until I played Crypt of the Necrodancer, and while the boss fights are nowhere near as difficult as some of the levels, they still pose a challenge to players who have not equipped themselves properly.
Calibration Station and Bookworm Tears
While the Necrodancer team is hard at work adding more to the game, I feel that there are still some things that need to be noted. Latency Calibration immediately comes to mind. This is the setting that appears when starting the game for the first time and also in the options menu.
It tests your responsiveness to sounds and visuals, as having keystrokes be on beat with the music is important to playing the game well.
I always find myself unable to tell whether my controls are properly calibrated or not. There are times where I’m sure I hit a beat correctly, but mess up in the game. Thankfully, you can edit this feature manually, so it’s not that big of an issue to address.
The narrative also feels a bit thin. For those who enjoy a good story, beyond the initial cinematic, don’t expect an engaging tale while playing. This doesn’t break the game or the experience I have playing it, but I would love to know more about Cadence and the crypt.
Dance, Dance my pretties!
Overall, Crypt of the Necrodancer is a solid game. There are 3 zones to play separately, a Hardcore mode to run, as well as a Daily Challenge. Different playable characters are available that only add to the replay value of each section. Each playthrough is unique, and with great gameplay and an engaging soundtrack, this indie game well worth checking out.
Watch the trailer for crypt of the Necrodancer below:
[IGR is pleased to welcome our newest addition to the writer’s bullpen: BlueBirdPlays]