Review: Crypt of the Necrodancer
The Good
  • The music will stick in your head for hours, but not in a bad way.
  • The difficulty curve is perfect and you never feel like game overs were the game's fault rather than your own.
  • Ten playable characters and a level editor adds huge replay value.
The Bad
  • Persistent upgrades are a bit too few and too easy to unlock.
95%Overall Score

What do you get when you combine dungeon crawling, the undead, and catchy music with a driving beat? The answer is Crypt of the Necrodancer. Combining rhythm and roguelike gameplay makes Necrodancer a uniquely fun experience.

What is Crypt of the Necrodancer?

As mentioned before, Necrodancer is what you get when you cross the roguelike and rhythm genres in one game. Initially, you play as Cadence, a woman in search of her father, who disappeared years ago. While searching for her father, she falls into the crypt and is fatally wounded. As she lays unconscious, the Necrodancer steals her heart, cursing her to dance to the beat for eternity. She awakens, aware that she has changed, but ventures further into the crypt, determined to save her father.

The story is told via narration accompanied by still screens. The art is done in a retro style, keeping with the game’s old school roguelike elements.

Gameplay

Crypt of the Necrodancer is the perfect balance of challenging but forgiving with a perfect difficulty curve. The crypt is divided into four zones, each with its own unique enemies and styles and each zone is divided into four floors with their own song. Floors are randomly generated giving the game immense replay value and making the challenge go beyond memorizing each floor.

Every floor is home to enemies, a shop, and a mini-boss who you must defeat before going on to the next floor. Defeating enemies does not give experience, but they do drop gold, with increments increasing based on your groove chain. You increase your groove train by killing enemies and reset it by missing a beat or taking damage. Shops sell a variety of items, weapons, armor, and spells that increase your stats, make you able to phase through walls, heal you, or provide other effects.

The pace set by the music is fast and you are forced to keep moving if you want to preserve your groove chain. The game’s challenge comes from this need to move combined with the omnipresent threat of enemies and your relatively low maximum health. Thankfully, each enemy moves in only a predetermined way. As you play you will learn these patterns and be able to determine the proper dances required to tackle each enemy. When you get a game over you are given a replay of the last few moments of your life, giving you time to think about how you could have approached the situation differently.

The only inputs the game uses are the four arrow buttons on the keyboard so it is perfectly suited to play with a USB dancepad. In fact, Brace Yourself Games has a number of custom dance pads listed on their website that they recommend for use with the game. If you want to fully experience dancing your way through the crypt, using a dance pad (inthe slightly easier dancepad mode) is the way to go.

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Graphics and Sound

In keeping with the old school style of roguelikes Necrodancer’s art has a retro feel with its top-down pixel art and still picture cutscenes. Each enemy type is easily distinguishable from others and the UI is uncluttered, letting you focus on the beat and the gameplay.

Of course, no review of a rhythm game would be complete without mentioning the music and sound effects. Each of the sixteen floors, as well as the game’s lobby has its own song and they are all catchy enough that I found myself humming them to myself for hours after I had stopped playing. To stop things from getting old there are three versions of each song, inspired by different genres of music. If you find yourself Necrodancing so much that you can’t handle the same songs then you can import any song that you have on your PC for use in the game. The game will automatically pick up the beat, no extra work required.

What makes the game’s sound design really shine is the little extras added in. The sound effects are perfectly done and the characters voices fit them well. My favorite touch is the way the shopkeeper sings along to the music when you approach his store.

Replayability

Necrodancer is a difficult game and will certainly take a while to complete, but even when you do beat the game there are all sorts of features to keep you coming back. You can tackle the crypt as ten different character, each with their own abilities and restrictions. For example, Dove, who cannot attack but who is able to proceed to the next floor without defeating the boss, or  Eli has no weapon but an infinite supply of bombs.

If extra playable characters are not enough, then the fact that floors are randomly generated and no run will be the same keeps things fresh. The inclusion of a daily challenge dungeon where players around the world compete for a high score also gives reason to keep loading the game up.

If you’re the type who enjoys creating your own challenge, an included level editor provides you the freedom to do that, as well as try the devious creations of other players.

Conclusion

Crypt of the Necrodancer is a unique take on both the rhythm and roguelike genres and a game that fans of either should definitely check out. Its combination of fun gameplay, great music, and replayability means that it will keep you dancing for some time to come.

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