While I tend to enjoy a slew of games across many genres, I do have an affinity to music and rhythm games. Ever since I laid my eyes on games like Beatmania and DDR, I was in love. Whether I was actively making music in Beatmania, or dancing to it in the DDR series, being so connected to it felt very exhilarating and satisfying. And as my Steam suggestions would have you believe, at least according to the Tags recommended for me, I do enjoy a wide gamut of Roguelikes. Whether they're true to their name like the Etrian Odyssey Mystery Dungeon, or off-shoot Rogue-lites like Spelunky or Rogue Legacy, there is something inherently satisfying about having only one shot at success, and then having to restart again upon failure.
It's pretty amazing then that Brace Yourself Games managed to fuse two of my favorite genres together, into one of the most addicting little games, that happen to have a sick soundtrack.
One look at Crypt of the NecroDancer would have you believe that its simply a Roguelike to the core. When you move and attack, enemies move and attack. Pretty simple and straightforward. What makes NecroDancer different is that the gameplay is directly tied to the game's soundtrack. Each stage across the four main zones has a different song attached to it, and will dictate your movement speed and frequency. The game rewards you with a gold multiplier if you match up your movement across tiles with the beat of the song. While that sounds easy in theory, it's anything but.
Like I stated previously, enemies perform an action every time that you perform an action. Since you're encouraged to constantly move to the song's beat, that means monsters are constantly on the move too. Since monsters have different attack patterns, it becomes more of a lesson in pattern memorization, knowing when and how each enemy attacks. For example the game's first blob monsters will either wait until you go for the attack, or simply attack after they're done moving, meaning you have to find an opening right after they've moved. Similarly, skeletons will move towards you, and then raise their arms signaling an incoming attack. If you happen to dance your way into that animation, you'll get hit. It's a fast paced game with almost no downtime, assuming you're playing it how the game intends.
To combat the frantic nature of the game, it's controlled entirely with the arrow keys, even attacking. To attack monsters, you simply move into them, Ys I & II style. This allows you to fully concentrate on keeping the beat and dodging monsters.
You can, alternatively, play it without matching the beat, but you'll lose out on multipliers, which means you will have a harder time acquiring a lot of the better items through the game's item shop. Like a true Roguelike, you start off completely bare, and either find or purchase various equipment that will strengthen your character for tougher challenges. Various weapons have different attack animations, such as spears allowing you to hit enemies two squares away, broadsword hitting three squares in front of you, and the all powerful bow shooting enemies at a safe distance. Likewise, various equipment and spells will also make your journey a lot more manageable.
The game tracks progress through Diamonds and the items that can be purchased with them. Throughout your dungeon delving, you'll pick up Diamonds that stay with you once you return to the hub. These can then be used to purchase items that will immediately strengthen your character, like adding more hearts, or purchasing items that can then be found in levels. Of course, items become increasingly more expensive, forcing you to play smarter and pick up as many Diamonds as you can in a single run.
While four zones doesn't sound like a whole lot, and in all honesty, it isn't, you'll have a ton of different options to spice things up. The All Zones Mode, will task you to go through all zones in a single try. Daily Challenge will give you a randomized zone that you have one chance to get through and get the highest score possible. Certain enemies giving you trouble? Test your mettle against them in the bestiary. Keep getting an item that you simply don't want? Have the Janitor remove them. There is also a local co-op mode which is just as frantic as it sounds. It can be somewhat easier to defeat enemies this way, so those looking to do Diamond runs should bring another rhythm savvy friend along.
The best part? The game supports completely custom soundtracks! That means you can explore dungeons to The Beatles if you so choose. However, given the game's nature, I'd recommend any sort of electronica with a steady beat. You can check out me playing the Early Access version to Reach out to the Truth from the Persona 4 soundtrack here.
But as I've stated, the game is hard. Especially for those that might find the rhythm part a little intimidating. The first zone manages to throw a bunch of monsters at you at once, and it just gets more difficult from then on. So keep that in mind if you're coming to the game hoping for a cakewalk. If you are having trouble keeping the beat, switch to the much more forgiving Dance Pad mode. Sure, you won't really be playing with one, but it will scale the difficulty down and give you slightly larger openings to keep the beat going.
Crypt of the NecroDancer is a genius mash-up of genres that works so well in execution, that it's hard to stop playing, even if Zone 1 kicked your ass 50 times in a row. It helps that the soundtrack is just so damn good. For $15, you can't go wrong, especially if you enjoy either of the two genres. Bonus points if you enjoy both like myself. If anything, it's such a unique mash up that I'd recommend checking it out even if you're mildly curious. You won't be disappointed.
A genius blend of two very different genre, coming together to form an extremely addicting dungeon crawler with a musical motif. Oh, and the soundtrack is absolutely kickass.