Dancin’ in the Dungeon with Crypt of the Necrodancer

Have tons o’ fun Dancin’ with Skeletons!

Crypt of the Necrodancer – Brace Yourself Games April 2015

Rogue-like, Rhythm

Take a pinch of pixel graphics, a drop of rhythm gaming and mix them with the ridiculously fun rogue-like mechanics.  This weird recipe calls forth Crypt of the Necrodancer, and the mad alchemist forming this brew will never be the same..

The game lays out the story in a clever cut-scene sequence that leaves the player with the vague understanding that movements and actions can only be taken “with the beat”. This is reinforced by the fact that all monsters in the crypt follow the same rules, so your movement with the beat can be planned out to foil that of the monsters, most of which follow pretty predictable movement patterns. Sound too simple? Don’t be fooled, when watching the movements of several monsters while also timing your own and trying to avoid certain trapped tiles it can be shocking how often a mistake can be made which can cost anywhere from a slap on the hand (a half a heart of damage) to severely punshing and brutalizing death spirals (dead before I realized what was happening even though I was at full health).  Speaking of death spirals, this guy is often to blame..CoND_RedDragon

(Those red dragons have a tendency to catch me with their sizzlin’ breath all too often.)

The game has loads of unlockables that you “purchase” with in game currency – diamonds. This is really fun as you can look forward to finding that new item or spell you recently unlocked to see how it affects your next dungeon run. There is also gold to be found so that if one is lucky enough to find the shop in each level then items can be purchased to power up the player.

CoND_Shop

(Apples for 10 gold, broadswords for 30… guess you make prices up as you go if you live in a musical crypt.)

Speaking of shops.. hear that singing? In the crypts? Weird… Shopkeepers actually sing with the music; not words exactly, but it is very clever and pretty amusing. You can hear them increase in volume as you get closer, letting you play “hot and cold” to meander your way to the shop. There are loads of items which alter the game mechanics a bit or give the player bonuses or even reusable spells. It is one of the hallmarks of a good rogue-like in my opinion to make the player want to keep going to see what interesting, powerful or silly combinations of power-ups and items might be discovered in the next attempt.

In addition to unlockable power-ups there are even unlockable characters, each possessing different abilities and attributes that alter the way the game works.  Take Eli, the first character I unlocked for instance.  While Cadence, the main character typically uses only a few bombs per game, Eli has unlimited bombs and can even kick the bombs around.  They are very powerful and it allows him to dig his way through any walls with ease but it can be a real pain if you get cornered or swarmed with little room to maneuver and place explosives – leaving the big guy wishing for a trusty dagger.  This can really add some nice variety as the games initial charm begins to wear down and starts to leave the player wanting some additional variety other than different power-up combos.

The game increases in difficulty at a reasonable pace with the game divided into 4 “zones”. Each one contains a different selection of monsters with some classic “palette-swaps” to show the player that certain dancing skeletons may behave slightly differently than previous ones, but there are actually quite a few new monsters to be seen and outsmarted.. out-patterened? Out-danced! A mini-boss stands in the way of the stairs to the next level at the end of each with a final boss at the end of each zone’s 4th level. All bosses are randomized and some are certainly trickier than others. My absolute favorite was “King Conga” who leads a massive conga-line of zombies that must be defeated before he can be harmed.  Coral Riff is a close second with an entire band of possessed water-elemental (maybe?) instruments that teleport about and attempt pincer attacks.

CoND_CoralRiff(Behold, Coral Riff in all of his Glory.  Don’t blink, those are some aggressive instruments!)

For a game themed around music, rhythm and dancing, at least at some level, one may have mixed opinions. Having grown up in the NES and SEGA era, retro tunes tend to appeal to me and Crypt of the Necrodancer certainly didn’t disappoint. Grant and I are especially fond of the first zones and I honestly play through it on occasion just to hunt up the shopkeeper and hear him sing his jingle along with the zones music – its really catchy! Good job Brace Yourself Games!

CoND_Golem

(Golems, skeletons and mushrooms, oh my sweet pixels!)

The Plant Powered Gamers’ stat breakdown:

Fun: 9/10 dancing skeletons. Getting into the beat of the game as a neccesity makes it easy to zone out and enjoy; clever and funny monsters present adequate challenge; the silly theme is a perfect fit for how the game “feels”.

Replayability: 6/10 bouncing slimes. It is a really fun game, true, but after the initial charm had worn off I find that I usually play it for only 15-30 minutes at a time. It is a nice game to have on hand as a small time-gap filler and even now after several months I find myself playing it on occasion.  Additionally, Grant likes the music and I still get a silly smile over the singing shopkeepers.  One might increase this score if access to the Steam Workshop is viable which adds even more variety to the game.

Value: 10/10* wailing banshees. Picking this up on sale makes it feel like a steal. It is probably worth the $15 price on Steam as of the writing of this article, but as often as it comes up on sale it may be silly not to wait and get it for half that price. The Plant Power Gamers have certainly been happy with our purchase.

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