Crypt of the NecroDancer Review

Crypt of the NecroDancer is one of those crazy genre mash-ups that can only come from an indie developer. Can you imagine a corporate executive at a major game publisher green-lighting a rhythm-based rogue-like? Neither can I. Thank goodness for indie devs!

Everything in NecroDancer moves to the beat of the music, and if you want to survive for long, so should you. Bars aligned with the musical downbeats of the soundtrack continually scroll along the bottom of the screen, entering from the edges and converging on the anatomically correct heart that sits beating in the middle. Each time the bars hit the heart, the monsters inhabiting the dungeon hop to an adjacent square or make an attack in your direction. It's a bit like a turn-based RPG in which every beat is a new turn, the turns never stop, and there's only a very brief moment between those turns.

Your goal is to use the arrow keys to move through the dungeon, timing each key press to a downbeat. Do it correctly and the heart looks strong and beats with gusto, but if your timing is off it will look small and sickly. Not that you should be watching the heart - you'll die pretty quickly if you're not paying attention to what is happening in the dungeon so you'll need to channel the music through you and let your fingers move to the rhythm.

If you're simply moving through a part of the dungeon and miss a beat, then all it will cost you is your "coin multiplier". Miss it when enemies are near and you can bungle your attack or, even worse, take damage yourself. Staying alive and defeating monsters is a delicate dance, in more ways than one. Different monsters move in different ways, have different attack methods, and different vulnerabilities. There's actually a lot more to this game than simply keeping time, and knowing your enemy is half of the battle. Between forays into the dungeon the game gives you an opportunity to practice against any of the monsters that you've encountered in the game so far and you should take advantage of the opportunity to become familiar with each one so that you can anticipate their moves once the dance turns deadly again. Randomized dungeons and frequent encounters with multiple enemy types at once make the learning curve a lot steeper if you don't take a little time to practice.

Crypt of the NecroDancer screenshot 3

Different weapons can mix things up a bit, changing where you need to be in relation to a monster to attack it, the frequency of your attacks, and so forth. Being a rogue-like rather than an RPG means that you'll need to rely on a little luck to find the weapon that you like the best or that you think works best with a certain type of enemy. Some upgrades between runs are permanent, but there aren't a lot of those. How deep you manage to penetrate the dungeon on any given run is going to rely more on your skills than a load-out of legendary gear.

There's certainly variety to the game in terms of randomized dungeons and monsters, but the game takes that even further by providing a number of playable characters (ten by the time you unlock them all) that each changes the rules of the game. For example, play as the bard and the dungeon will begin moving to your beat instead of the other way around. Playing with different characters will also reveal more of the story behind the game.

Additional variety comes from the daily challenge levels, in which you can be humbled by your ranking on the leaderboard for the day, and support for user-generated mods through Steam Workshop. And while the game's soundtrack is excellent, you also have the option of importing your own music and assigning a different track to each of the game's levels. So if you want to begin each new dungeon run hopping along to Mamma Mia (Mamma Mia, here I go again...), you're certainly free to do that.

Crypt of the NecroDancer is a unique and enjoyable game, but don't let its ties to rhythm-based games fool you - it's also quite challenging. It's going to take some time and effort to figure things out, and after that you'll still need to play smart; this is no hack-and-slash game. A tutorial level gives you the basics, but after that you're on your own as even the first level won't take it too easy on you. If you're easily frustrated or don't have the patience to put the time into the game that will be required before you get any good at it, then you should probably just leave this crypt be. Otherwise, it's easy to recommend Crypt of the NecroDancer as a foot-tapping, heart-pounding, brain-testing, and, above all, fun game.

Final Rating: 88% - It's dance or die in the Crypt of the NecroDancer.


Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.

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