Crypt of the NecroDancer review for PC

Platform: PC
Publisher: Brace Yourself Games
Developer: Brace Yourself Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes

Indie developed roguelikes are clearly a popular genre, and for good reason. Titles like Rogue Legacy, among others, have done a solid job of representing procedurally generated, 2D action in a way that few other genres manage to do. And now you can add Crypt of the NecroDancer to the list of top-tier, must-play games available on Steam that follow the now classic roguelike formula.

However, just calling Crypt of the NecroDancer a roguelike is doing it a disservice. This is a wildly imaginative take on the formula with three remarkably entertaining soundtracks that are just as integral to the gameplay as any other mechanic. While roguelikes generally conjure up imagery of top down or isometric dungeons filled with enemies that take turns when you do, Crypt of the NecroDancer takes that one step further. When moving or attacking, you’ll do so according to the beat of the musical track playing. Moving or attacking successfully in tandem with the rhythm will benefit you via a coin multiplier, while screwing up will remove the multiplier, and can also hinder your intended movement making you susceptible to enemy attacks.

necrodancer 001When you first start to play Crypt of the NecroDancer, the rhythm mechanic can make an already difficult game feel even harder, but I think you’ll be surprised with how quickly you can acclimate to things here. To help, you’ll have access to a visual render of the rhythm at the bottom of the screen, and there’s calibration options for both video and audio to help mold the game to your current display. But you’ll quickly be able to time your movements and attacks in conjunction with the music without need of a visual aid, and soon the concept of rhythm based spelunking will feel second nature.

Still, if you can’t get the hang of things, you can opt to switch characters to the Bard, one of the many characters you can unlock and play as in Crypt of the NecroDancer. The Bard removes the rhythm-based mechanics entirely, turning Crypt of the NecroDancer into a traditional roguelike. It’s still a really fun, well-made experience sans rhythm gameplay, but I’d still urge you to stick with the core concept until it clicks, as the experience difference between the two feels quite substantial.

necrodancer 003What the rhythm-based gameplay brings to the table, outside of upping the challenge a bit, is that it forces you to play things fast and loose. See, with most roguelike titles that focus on turn-based gameplay, you can sort of plan your moves and get a bit strategic, since enemies won’t move until you do. But with the musically-enhanced movement and combat in Crypt of the NecroDancer, you’ll rarely have a moment to catch your wits, as enemies will move independently according to the beat, and will hone in on your position quickly.

Crypt of the NecroDancer features a pretty full list of unlockable content and various modes to explore, in additional to the four main campaign areas to complete. While four areas might not sound like much, the design randomization, enemy variety, and the random bosses you can encounter make for a pretty substantial experience. Each new area ramps up the difficulty quite a bit, with only a handful of carryover upgrades between sessions, purchased via increasingly rare diamonds scattered across each dungeon.

necrodancer 002I also found Crypt of the NecroDancer to be one of the better looking 2D retro-styled titles on the market across any genre. The various characters you can unlock and the remarkably different enemies you encounter all have unique animations that set them apart from one another, and the musically-themed bosses you encounter at the end of each area are all well-designed, humorous, and challenging to fight. Seriously, Crypt of the NecroDancer is a fantastic looking game, with some of the best sprite work I’ve seen in recent years.

And, of course, the soundtracks offered here are superb. You can switch between the three soundtracks at any point, offering up different tempo and musical styles across all three, with music by Danny Baranowsky, A_Rival, and FamilyJules7x. And if none of the soundtracks are up your alley, you can also opt to use your own music files within the game, which works surprisingly well.

All in all, you’d do well to check out Crypt of the NecroDancer sooner rather than later. It’s a unique, fun, and wildly imaginative take on the roguelike formula that stands out, despite being in the company of other A-class titles within the genre. Everyone from the development team of Brace Yourself Games should be proud of the work done here, and I look forward to seeing what this team comes up with next.

Grade: A+