Rogue-like games seem to be a dime a dozen these days – you know the ones where you enter a randomly generated dungeon and force your way through until you meet your untimely demise only to repeat again and again and… you get the point. Every once in awhile, a new rogue-like comes along that adds something that sets itself apart from the rest. We take a look at one of the latest in our Crypt of the NecroDancer review.
So what makes Crypt of the NecroDancer different? The music! Instead of moving at your own pace through the random dungeon levels, you and the foes you come across move to the beat of the music pumping in the background. But it gets better. Not only can you move through the game using the in game soundtrack, you can also import your own songs in MP3 format and bounce to your favourite beats instead.
It may sound like a minor thing, after all rogue-like games play pretty much the same, but the concept of moving to the beat of music and being able to import your own tracks into the game to play to is a refreshing take on the genre. When you import your music through the game interface, the song is run through the Essentia beat detection library and adds the beat points you’ll move to. A word to the wise – you’ll want to pick high energy, fast paced songs for this. While slower songs do work, it really emphasises the crawl in dungeon crawler and I found I soon got frustrated with the slow pace and opted to start over with faster songs.
Crypt of the NecroDancer has you starting as Cadence, an adventurer who sets off to prove to her peers that she wasn’t too young to go exploring dungeons. Unfortunately, she suffers a nasty fall and wakes up feeling cold with a drum beating pulse coursing through her body. As it turns out, her heart was stolen by the NecroDancer and she must slay him in order to regain her still beating heart.
The game consists of 4 zones with 3 levels each and a final boss for each level. Before entering each zone you can visit the shop to purchase temporary upgrades with diamonds that you’ve collected in previous runs. Unfortunately you can’t stockpile the diamonds so if you don’t spend them before you zone in, you’ll lose them forever. As you play more, you’ll find other characters that you can free after which time you’ll have access to purchase permanent upgrades from them before heading into your next dungeon adventure. The game also offers a Beastmaster training section where you can practice against different types of enemies to get your movements down, as well as a Dance Pad mode which lowers the difficulty. There is also a Story Mode which tasks you with running through the entire dungeon in one go first as Cadence, then Melody, and finally Aria. A Daily Challenge rounds out the modes and lets you compare your run times with other players to see who has the fastest time.
Once you enter the zone, you must match your movement to the beat indicated by moving bars and a pulsing heart near the bottom of the screen. As you progress through each level you’ll find blocks that speed up or slow down the tempo, as well as various weapons, shovels for digging through dirt walls, and items which will help you out through your journey. As mentioned above, you’ll also encounter friends trapped in cages and you’ll have to find the golden key to release them. You’ll also find shops along the way and can spend the coins you’ve collected on various items, weapons, and other tools.
Crypt of the NecroDancer allows you to play with a keyboard, controller, or even a USB dance pad. I only played with the keyboard, and while there were a few issues initially with the default layout you can customize the controls by mapping other keys any way you want. After a bit of time playing though, I got used to the default setup although I suspect the game would be even more fun and fluid when used with a controller.
The graphics in Crypt of the NecroDancer definitely fit within the rogue-like genre and the variety of design in the mobs you encounter is well done. The interface is clean and it’s easy to tell what items you have, and each element that requires a key combination displays that combination below it.
The sound effects and music in the game are very well done. The included soundtrack is phenomenal and was created by Danny Baranowsky, the award winning electronic music composer who has worked on other games such as Canabalt and Super Meat Boy.
As mentioned previously, when you import your music through the game interface, the song is run through the Essentia beat detection library and adds the beat points you’ll move to. While the process works most of the time, there were a few instances where the beat detection was slightly off so you may have to try a few different songs to get optimal results.
It was also announced earlier today that more tracks have been made available once you unlock them. Finish the game once and you’ll get new tracks from A_Rival (a producer for the EDM trio Super Square); finish twice and you’ll get additional tracks from Jules Conroy, a.k.a FamilyJules7x, who is a metal guitarist from Massachusetts popular for his video game song covers.
Crypt of the NecroDancer does support local co-op, but I didn’t get a chance to test it out.
Crypt of the NecroDancer is a fun rogue-like adventure with an interesting twist. Moving to the beat of the included soundtrack definitely adds an extra element of fun and immersion to the game. And any game that lets you move along to the sounds of Alice in Chains, Benny Benassi, or anyone else you want is a win in my books!
Crypt of the NecroDancer launches on Steam this Thursday.
***We were sent a review copy of Crypt of the NecroDancer for the purposes of this review.