Rhythm games aren’t my forte. I’d even say I’m very bad at keeping beat – I played guitar for years and suffered through staying in time. But from the little gameplay I’d seen of Crypt of the Necrodancer in early 2015, I knew it was a game I had to give a chance, considering its roots are as a rhythm game, yet it isn’t the only factors at play. Boy, am I glad I decided to pick it up.
Necrodancer’s roots are in rhythm; you’ll have to keep beat with the song playing on each of the zone’s levels – all are different with varying beats per minute. However, you’re not the only one keeping that beat. Being a dungeon crawler RPG of sorts, you’ll encounter various enemies, and those enemies also keep beat in their movements on the zones grid layout. To be effective, you’ll need to learn each monster’s movements. Otherwise, you’ll be punished – and I mean punished.
The dungeon crawler can be grueling at times. Hordes of enemies occupy the levels and if you don’t know their pattern, you’ll be wiped out in a second. It can be hard at times, learning the patterns and making it through to the zone’s boss, but I found it incredibly gratifying. Just like other RPG games, learning how and what to do is an important part of Crypt of the Necrodancer, and I love the constant struggle and finally overcoming that obstacle.
Being a roguelike, everything in the game is randomized – from the dungeon’s layout and enemies to the chest items and even level-end bosses. It’s another thing I loved; you never know what’s around the corner and you have to be cautious at all times – there were times I’d open a door and get killed immediately.
There are two types of loot in the game: gold and diamonds. Gold is used as more of an immediate reward – you can only spend it in the dungeon. There is a store vendor who sells anything from food to restore health to weapons and armor. However, you’ll only have that within the dungeon; it won’t carry over between deaths. Diamonds are spent outside of the dungeon on new characters, items to appear in chests, chest types themselves or on permanent health increases. This is where you’ll see the RPG elements that are in the game.
Naturally, you can’t discuss a rhythm game without mentioning the music, and it’s fair to say Necrodancer has some of the best game music I’ve heard in the past few years. It doesn’t limit itself to a genre, so it’s easy for anyone to pick up the game and not be instantly turned off by the game’s basic premise. One of my favorite moments was encountering the randomized bosses and realizing that the music was tailored to their individual appearances/themes – Death Metal naturally had a metal soundtrack. Sadly, one of the biggest missed opportunities is the fact that there isn’t any option to use custom music as the soundtrack, as you can for the Steam version. Obviously Steam makes it a tad easier, but Vita does have a music app, which the game could utilize. It’s not detrimental to the game, since there is already that variety, but it would have been awesome to have it.
There’s a huge amount of replay value in Crypt of the Necrodancer. With all the random bosses you encounter, you’ll want to fight against each and defeat them. On top of that, the game is so enjoyable and fun that it was hard to put it down, even though I often found myself getting destroyed. I loved it though, and I took it as a learning experience to understand what I was doing poorly. (Note: if you don’t want to suffer as I did, Necromancer does offer a training zone that replicates the enemy types for each zone so you can learn their movements and attack patterns easier.)
In all, I would say Crypt of the Necrodancer lived up to my expectations, easily. I loved the roguelike elements and the diversity the game offered, and even though it beat me down many times, I found myself returning for more like a masochist. It offers a variety of game mechanics, which allows it to be enjoyable to myriad gamers. I didn’t have any issues of note, gameplay-wise nor technical. If the game has piqued your interest, go buy it. It will live up to that interest.