Crypt of the NecroDancer
A fact about the world of rhythm games; there’s a considerable lack of them. Ever since Harmonix and Activision laid their respective “plastic-instrument” titles to rest, few companies have been willing to approach the concept of rhythm. Before Crypt of the NecroDancer dropped in my proverbial lap a few days ago, the only title that came to mind that used the same rhythmic concept was Dungeon Hearts, a strategy/RPG title by Cube Roots that uses rhythm to great effect in its turn-based battling.
However, none of those titles are Crypt of the NecroDancer. Indeed, after spending more time than I’m probably willing to admit across the last few days with the game, I can say that there is probably no game quite like it.
Crypt of the NecroDancer is a rhythm-based roguelike title designed by Brace Yourself Games. The title originally came about in an attempt to create a roguelike title that was fair for players of all skill-levels, whether you’re just getting into the genre of roguelikes or have been following it for years.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term “rhythm-based roguelike” (because I know I sure as hell was before I began playing it), Crypt of the NecroDancer works as follows; you are a girl named Cadence who, after having her heart stolen by the NecroDancer, must seek her way through his legendary dungeon of dance to defeat him and reclaim her still-beating heart. Cadence can only survive the dungeon by moving to the beat of her heart, and this in turn means the player can only move around the dungeon on each respective beat.
The element of rhythm is the over-riding rule by which every denizen of the dungeon – Cadence included – must live by; as you progress through the game’s various levels, the beat of the music will change, and consequently, so will the beat of your heart. This means you have to keep to the time of the music if you want to be successful in surviving the dungeon. Every monster in the dungeon has their own pattern of movement based on how the beat ebbs and flows – for example, on each beat a blue slime will hop up, right, down and left, meaning you have to catch them in a rotation where they won’t move into the spot you’re going to occupy when you move. Failing to do so results in Cadence taking damage and losing her “coin multiplier”, which is essential to racking up large amounts of coins to spend in the game’s various shops to upgrade your character on the fly. This results in a necessity to learn and memorise each enemy pattern for the best chance of survival. Its a fantastic feature which – combined with procedurally-generated levels – means that Crypt of the NecroDancer is never the same experience twice.
Speaking of upgrades, I love Crypt of the NecroDancer’s approach to an upgrade system. Unlike many roguelikes, which result in the loss of all of your items you’ve earned thus far when you die, NecroDancer uses a unique system which involves two different forms of currency. The first, and more rare of the two, are diamonds, which players can collect by defeating difficult areas of a dungeon, finding them concealed within walls, or even conquering one of the game’s several bosses for a one-time sizable boost to their diamond collection. These diamonds, which are good only for the next time you visit the surface, are then used in one of the overworld’s three shops.
While one of these shops sells upgrades that will permanently improve your character when purchased (for example, an additional heart container every run or a higher gold multiplier by default), the other two sell various weapons, armor, magic and food that once purchased will appear in the dungeon’s shops randomly. These items can then be bought during your runs for coins, which are obtained every time you slay a beast within the dungeon. Its an interesting concept, and despite diamonds being rarer than coins you will always find yourself wanting to collect as many as possible to upgrade Cadence every time you play through. It means that, although frequent, death is always an experience that allows you to make Cadence even stronger than she was before, so that you may have a collectively higher chance of success next time you play.
It is also evident to me that I’m reviewing a significant amount of games lately with marvellous soundtracks, and Crypt of the NecroDancer is no exception to this rule. As soon as I saw Danny B’s name printed under the musical credits, I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed. The music for the game is incredibly vibrant and the beats suit the style of the game so well, its honestly a credit to what fantastic work Danny B does – in a title where music is so fundamental, it never falls short and everything sounds exactly how it should be.
The variety of options players have to fool around with the music is astounding, too; should you get sick of hearing the sounds of Danny B (read: how?)then you can use your entire MP3 library to play along to the game with – that’s right, any song that you own that you want to play inside Crypt of the NecroDancer, the option is there for it. It blows my mind that a game exists where you can customise the entire experience (because the music you use affects the pacing of the game) to your own liking. On the off-chance you might feel a little fed up of having to follow said rhythm however, there’s also a character who goes by the name of Bard that is unlocked from the beginning. Bard is unaffected by the beat, and enemies instead move when you do; its a nice change 0f pace should you wish to relax without having to worry too much about following the beat and maintaining a groove chain constantly.
Additionally, should you find that using a keyboard or controller is not quite immersive enough for you, you can also play Crypt of the NecroDancer with a dance-pad. If you don’t happen to have a dancemat stuffed in your attic from the last time you played DDR in the early 2000s, you can grab customised ones from the NecroDancer website. Quite frankly, they’re absolutely stunning;
A title as unassuming as you’d like, Crypt of the NecroDancer completely swept me off my feet in a multitude of ways. Crypt of the NecroDancer is an amalgamation of features and concepts that just feel right; the way the whole dungeon comes alive with the sound of music and the beat of Cadence’s heart, the upgrade system that keeps you wanting to delve back into that dungeon just one more time to find the last few diamonds you need, and the charisma that the music and art style exuberate from their very soul. This is not just a title that rhythm or roguelike fans should play, but a game that at its core is the most original concept I have played in years.
So do yourself a favour and dance with the NecroDancer. Who knows, he may just steal your heart.
Crypt of the NecroDancer is a roguelike rhythm game by Brace Yourself Games. You can find more information about Crypt of the NecroDancer over on the website. The game is also available today on Steam.
A big thanks to YouTuber BaerTaffy for allowing me to use his video in this review. Be sure to check out his Crypt of the NecroDancer playthrough using the video above!