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Crypt of the Necrodancer Preview: Tango With A Dragon
Music-based games can be pretty awesome if they’re done right, manipulating the flow of the game around the song. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t done right and just turn out to be shallow puzzle games that double as a music player. As I had written about it in a previous article about promising upcoming indies I was particularly excited to get my hands on Crypt of the Necrodancer and see which category it falls into.
Essentially, Crypt of the Necrodancer is a fairly standard rogue-like dungeon crawler in that you traverse randomly generated levels full of treasure and a variety of baddies. The unique selling point, though, is that music is playing constantly as you adventure and you have to move in time with the rhythm. Think of it as a simplified version of Dungeons of Dredmor, just with a second or two to take each move depending on which song is playing. The game obviously can’t force you to move at a certain speed, but you get a stacking coin bonus as you kill monsters without stepping out of line. It may seem a little inconsequential, and that can sometimes be true if the level shop doesn’t carry anything useful in the first place, but the game won’t let you move much quicker than the pace and as the whole level is moving at the same speed it feels creepily unnatural – and as a result, more difficult – not to play along.
Hitting arrow keys to the tempo and playing a dungeon crawler are not particularly complicated tasks, but the gimmick is that you’re multitasking the whole time. All it takes is for something unexpected to happen to throw you out of the zone, causing you to panic and note how you’re now even sobbing to the beat as you stare at the game over screen. And unexpected things happen all the time – there are tonnes of monster types with different attack patterns to learn including some terrifying bosses, secret chests to find and lots of different weapons, spells and trinkets to keep you preoccupied. Every ordinary game mechanic is much harder to process now so you’ll be forgiven if you misstep when, say, you get pushed by a trap, into a pit, which drops you into a claustrophobic little room with a humungous angry minotaur. Every monster has a fairly easy to understand movement pattern, though, so every death will be 100% your fault – just as it should be.
How well the game works with your music really just depends on what kind of music you like. The beat is all about a song’s tempo, and will remain the same speed through the entire song (so it doesn’t change as the song gets faster or slower like Audiosurf or something). This means that songs that change their pace a lot or don’t have a strong underlying beat can be quite difficult to use. Luckily the game has some pretty solid songs itself so far.
Overall the most important thing is that it captures that addictiveness that some of the best well-made roguelikes offer. The kind where you have to have just one more game, even though you really need to go to bed. I’d say it might be looking a little on the short side so far depending on how difficult the rest of the game turns out to be as, even though the game is hard, you can buy upgrades pretty frequently to push you along. On the other hand there’s always hardcore mode in which you have to play through each zone in sequence without any of your upgrades that will keep anyone busy for a long time.
Brace Yourself Games are hoping to release Crypt of the Necrodancer for early access late this year, but if you’re really excited you can always pre-order already on their website for 10% off (that’s $13.49, or £8.45). If you’re still not sure, check out the official trailer below: