I was going to write this article back in December when I actually played Crypt of the Necrodancer, but then I got distracted with playing Pokemon Alpha Sapphire. I realize that does not help my Indie Gamer cred at all, but if you read the article you’d know why I had to play it. Three months and a new website later I have the review that you (hopefully) were waiting for. So let’s get to it.
Crypt of the Necrodancer, developed by Brace Yourself Games, is one of the rare exceptions to my rule about buying early access games on Steam. I originally saw a trailer for it and the concept was cool enough and the beats sick enough for me to be interested in plopping into into my Steam wish list, but, honestly, it sat there for months before a friend bought it for me over the holidays. Even then I did not download or play it until my brother’s friends took all the TVs in the house and had a LAN party and I didn’t have anything else to play. This is the only time that I was thankful that I was forced into playing a game, because Necrodancer was as addictive as sack of ferrero rocher.
Crypt of the Necrodancer starts you off as Cadence, daughter of Melody and Dorian, who has set out to find her father who is somewhere in the crypt. In her search, she does something I’ve rarely seen a protagonist do, fall and die in the intro cutscene. Yes our heroine falls to her death, but, for reasons unknown, the Necrodancer revives her and curses her heart to forever dance to the beat of the music. Cadence then sets out into the Necrodancer’s halls of hippity hoppity to find her father and end the curse, because the fall also knocked the common sense out of her. Over the course of the game you get to unlock other characters from the story, each with their own unique powers and skills, affecting the core gameplay of rhythm dancing, but while it is exceedingly cool to play as Bard, we’re going to focus on Cadence.
Cadence, like the rest of her family, is a horrible dancer as she hops around the dance floor (much as I do in real life) as the excellent score by Danny Baranowsky plays in the background. At first I was worried that I would not be able to tell when I was supposed to move to the beat, and missteps are punishable by lowered score, ending multipliers, and sometimes death. However, I found that it was incredibly easy to follow along with the beat of the songs without consulting the visual beat. The song list is long enough and exciting enough that you won’t get bored of the songs too soon, but if you die often enough (like I have) you’ll grow to hate the a particular song. The bright side for those who die on the first level 43 times, every time you go into the dungeon you collect coins which can be exchanged for upgrades to your character as well as new weapon and item drops. That’s right, drops, not actual items. Every item Cadence gets to use (armor, spells, and weapons) has to come from the dungeon itself, which is frustrating as you start with a dagger that doesn’t nearly do enough damage. There is a mix of ranged and melee weaponry and the amount of items you’re able to hold is determined by more items that you buy or find in the level. For some I spoke with, this was a source of aggravation and caused them to hate the game. In my opinion, it felt like a game for the Super Nintendo or original NES, where it’s challenging but there is a system in place to make it doable. It also makes the payoff a thousand times better as it took me two and a half hours to beat the first level and I was so overjoyed that I jumped right into level two with high hope only to be murdered by a bush. Maybe you’d rage quit from that, but I found it as another challenge to conquer.
Necrodancer will have your fingers twitchy and your synapses snapping to the groove and screaming at the screen when the song ends and you’re kicked back to the lobby. I reserve final judgement for when Crypt of the Necrodancer leaves early access and has it’s full release, but right now it’s an enjoyably fun time that you will agonize over to perfect. One quick complaint, if you have to watch the visual beat meter for whatever reason, then let me say, you’re playing the game on hard mode. With your eyes focused at the bottom of the screen to see when to move, it’s basically impossible to keep track of all the monsters on the dance floor without them killing you, and this is especially true in later stages where the songs are faster and the monsters meaner. Sit still long enough and they’ll triple step all over your face to Achey Breaky Heart. Til next time dear readers, keep dancing through life.