Crypt of the Necrodancer was released on 24th January 2015, and gained a lot of attention for their innovative roguelike rythm game. The improbable mashup managed to pull it off and has a 10/10 rating on Steam. How did the devs pull it off?
Crypt of the Necrodancer – Story
Cadence goes to the crypt to search for her father, dies and comes back when the NecroDancer appears and steals her heart, cursing it to forever beat to his music. The NecroDancer takes Cadence’s heart and heads to his, lair deeper into the crypt. The story is not really apparent from the start of the game, but as we progressed, things started making much more sense.
Crypt of the Necrodancer – Gameplay
Movement is with the arrow keys and that’s it. Up, Down, Left, Right. There is nothing else. No fire button, no ADS, no “E to Use/Interact”. Just the good old arrow keys. With those arrow keys alone, it is possible to navigate, interact, kill and dig in the game. The movement is grid based and you can only move one block at a time in whichever direction you like. The catch here is that you have to move to the rhythm of the song playing in the background. Otherwise, the player won’t move and you will miss the beat.
There are a total of four zones in the main game and an extra fifth zone if you have the DLC installed. Each zone has three levels which get progressively harder until you reach the end of the third level, after which you will have to face the boss. Clearing the bossfight will unlock the next zone. The levels are procedurally generated at the same level of difficulty. Die once and you lose all your progress. This brings a risk factor to the table and a sense of “do or die” which makes you pretty immersed in the game.
There are a lot of other mechanics like Shop and different upgrades and purchases that you can make to enhance your experience. If you have purchased something from the shop like a bomb or a piece of cheese (more about the shop and the items later), you can use it by pressing a specific combination of keys like UP + LEFT or DOWN + RIGHT to use that item.
Crypt of the Necrodancer – Combat
You will require a keen eye if you want to master the combat tactics of the game. Each enemy has a specific moving pattern and they move to the beat of the song too. You will need to kill each enemy by observing their movement pattern, and killing them when you’re out of the harm’s way. For example, the blue slimes move every second beat jumping vertically over the span of two tiles. If you want to kill them, you will have to approach them horizontally or else you will get in their way and they will attack you. To master the combat mechanics you will have to play through the entire level at least thrice or even four times. Although this is an easy thing to do as you will be dying a lot in the game and due to the perma-death you will eventually have the movements of almost all the enemies and bosses memorised.
Crypt of the Necrodancer – Powerups
They are an essential part of the game. At first, you will see no use for them and question their very existence in the game. But, the longer you play the game, the more you will realise the value and importance of these powerups.
Powerups in the game give you various kinds of perks. Some increase your coin multiplier, some increase your damage, some may heal you or some will even give a useful boost to your weapon’s damage. They are not reliable but can get you out of sticky situations. They all cost coins to purchase, you can get coins by killing enemies.
The only caveat here is the implementation of their combo. You see, you will need to press a certain key combination such as UP + LEFT or RIGHT + DOWN in order to activate them and that was the part which we found was a bit annoying to carry out. Everytime we would have to look at the key combination and press those keys in sync with the beat so that the powerup would activate and we wouldn’t lose our coin multiplier too but everytime, due to the weird key combination we would end up skipping/mistiming the combo and would lose our coin multiplier. You can change the key bindings in the settings but we didn’t really think that it would be fruitful to make use of any key other than the arrow keys.
Crypt of the Necrodancer – Music
Don’t even get us started on the fantastic soundtrack this game has to offer. This is almost expected since it heavily relies on music and rhythm and boy oh boy! Does it do a fine job at nailing that. The music does a very good job on tying the game together and making the player immersed in the game. Danny Baranowsky – the composer of the original soundtrack has done a fine job in making the tracks progressively complex as the player advances through the level. Hence, you start out with just a kick and clap and it slowly turns into a full blown song with complex rhythms.
Another cool feature that this game provides is that you can add your own music too. Yes, you can literally add any mp3 to the game and play the game to its beat. Didn’t like the soundtrack? No worries, just put on some Daft Punk and vibe to Get Lucky while you beat the enemies and clear the dungeons. This is one of the very nice features to have in a game and we think a lot of the other games should also implement this feature as it really makes the whole experience feel very personalised.
Crypt of the Necrodancer – Conclusion
Crypt of the Necrodancer is a game that combines two very different genres into one package. It is a roguelike rhythm game. Yes, we know that those two words don’t really go together but yet, here we are wondering how the devs pulled it off. Whenever we look at the rhythm games, we think of games like OSU!, Beat Saber, Friday Night Funkin, Taiko no Tatsujin, Muse Dash, etc. Whereas when we look at the roguelikes, we have games like Hades, Binding of Issac, FTL: Faster than Light, Spelunky, etc. We have a broad spectrum of gameplay elements here, but you’ll find that none of them have any correlation between music and gameplay. The music is just there to complement the things happening on the screen. Crypt of the Necrodancer breaks all those boundaries and brings you a game that is based on rhythm and is in all aspects perma-death and dungeon based which makes it fall in the roguelike category too.
Composer: Danny Baranowsky
Platforms: Android, PlayStation 4, iOS, Xbox One, MORE
Developer: Brace Yourself Games
Publishers: Brace Yourself Games, Klei Entertainment