The Nintendo Switch is no stranger to Rogue-Lites. Heck, one could say that the genre is somewhat over represented on the wee hybrid. Considering the Switch is the perfect platform for Rogue-Lites, it is no surprise we have more of them than there are atoms in the viewable universe. To compete with the endless horde, games have to do something special to catch your attention. Brace Yourself Games have tried to do just that with – Crypt of the Necrodancer.
Naturally, most people will see that title and be instantly enamoured with the quality pun involved in the naming process. But you would be mistaken if you thought that pun was simply there for a cheap laugh and was superfluous beyond it. Simply put, Crypt of the Necrodancer shakes up your typical Rogue-Lite by infusing it with music. Imagine if Dance Dance Revolution had a baby with Dungeons of Dreadmore, and you’d not be far off.
In typical Rogue-Lite fashion, your goal in Crypt of the Necrodancer is to battle your way through progressively more difficult floors until you get to the final boss and emerge victorious. There are of course a number of catches however. Firstly if you die, you are dead for good and have to restart from scratch. Secondly the dungeon is partially randomised. Whilst the theme of each level stays the same, the level layout and enemy placement changes each run. In a less typical Rogue-Lite manner, Crypt of the Necrodancer only allows you to move in time with the music.
In fact, the music is probably the most important facet of the game. Not only is your movement attacks tied to it, but enemies are also linked to it. This turns the act of dispatching your foes into something reminiscent of a puzzle game – a puzzle game that forces you to think at a fairly quick pace. In the space of a single beat you need to analyse where you are, where the enemy is, how that enemy interacts with the music and where you can move without taking damage. It forces you to make life and death decisions at least every second, and it is absolutely thrilling. Until you die of course, at which point you realise you are not the musical RPG god you thought you were.
In a more subtle use of music, you can use it to locate the levels shopkeeper. This is due to the genius decision to make the Shopkeeper sing, therefore the louder his sultry vocals, the closer you are to the shop. As you out jig your foes, you collect gold. Gold is used to purchase items at the shop. These items include restorative consumables, armour, weapons and various magical tomes and scrolls.
Weapons are where things get really interesting. Each weapon type changes how you attack. Some weapons may attack from a distance, others my cause you to lunge forwards etc. Realising how these weapons interact with your characters movements, and by extension the music, adds an extra layer of complexity to an already complex title.
The most interesting use of the music however, is in its ties to the length of each level. As I previously mentioned, your movements are intrinsically connected to the music – so what happens when the song ends? Simply put – the level ends and you move onto the next floor. This might seem like a fairly pointless…well point, but it is a surprisingly logical conclusion that just adds to that mysterious, intangible concept that is ‘game-feel’.
With so much of the game tied into its soundtrack, it would be devastating if the music in question was rubbish. Luckily, Brace Yourself Games sought the help of musical legend – Danny Baranowsky and it absolutely does not disappoint. Every floor and boss battle has its own infectiously catchy melody. I think it would be safe to say that no mortal man can resist the overwhelming urge to bop their bonce to the beat. Heck, I have the sound track as a permanent fixture on my Spotify playlist.
Equally as vibrant as the music, the visuals are comprised of exquisitely detailed pixel-art. Characters and enemies are well animated, often giving the impression that their movements and attacks are actually an elaborate dance routine. This is augmented by the brilliant disco effect that starts once you get into the groove. If you are a fan of quality pixel-art, Crypt of the Necrodancer will not disappoint.
Disappointment is a feeling I failed to get throughout my experience. Crypt of the Necrodancer will mercilessly slaughter you at the drop of a hat, but due to the mechanics it utilises it never feels unfair. The controls are very forgiving, so even if you are musically inept, the game will not be overly punishing. Therefore every death is due to your own failing.
It will take you about 30 minutes to trounce the final boss. However I spent well over 10 hours playing Crypt of the Necrodancer, beating the game only once in that time. The brevity of each run is perfect for handheld play. Beating the last boss is not where the game ends either. There are a huge assortment of characters to unlock, each altering how the game functions. Not to mention daily challenges and extra gamemodes. Replayability is truly through the roof.
Overall Crypt of the Necrodancer is a phenomenal addition to the Switch’s library, and one that should not be overlooked. I have tried to think of something negative, but have drawn a complete blank. For what it has set out to accomplish, Crypt of the Necrodancer has pulled it off pretty much flawlessly.
I give Crypt of the Necrodancer a 4 on the Toaster Scale. You’ve made a run to your local bakery and picked up a loaf of bread good enough to distort your fundamental understanding of the universe. You tenderly lower your bread into your toaster, lather it in full fat butter and top it with a series of delicious extras. You bite into heaven, and toast will never be the same again.
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