What do you get if you cross Diablo with Guitar Hero?
Well, you get Crypt of The Necrodancer.
Hailing from Canadian Studio, Brace Yourself Games, Crypt of The Necrodancer is a roguelike dungeon crawler with a difference. controlled with only the directional keys you must navigate, attack and descend randomly generated levels BUT you can only make a move to the beat of the music. If you try and move at any other point then you just get stuck and lose your combo which can cause death pretty quickly.
Being a massive fan of rhythm games I was really looking forward to this game, having a story arc and goals rather than just finishing a song. The developers state that the game should be considered "turn based" it is just that the turns are a very specific length and failure to respond to this ultimately finishes you. It makes sense. The problem with roguelikes can be that you really need to be immersed into the game to understand the patterns of your enemies and you excel through repetition.
It's very purposeful that the game has a an award wining score by Danny Baranowsky. The dance/techno music contrasts well with the stone heavy world you play in. It feels separate from your actions even though this is exactly what is dictating you. The contrapuntal nature of the score fits and I think is the strongest part of the game.
Unfortunately for me, that is where the good points end.
I've delayed putting this review out as I've been going back to this game again and again trying to improve the gameplay because being honest, I suck. No matter how many times I play it I end up losing the rhythm and then after the second level you are screwed because the monsters will pour in. I do think that repetition is key here because the first time I saw the Minotaur I got owned but now the big beast feels quite tame as his movements are predictable.
You've got to really want to succeed at this game and maybe that was my shortcoming. I was focused so heavily on the music and rhythm that when it didn't work as I wanted it to, it was really jarring. I guitar and was very much on the beat but attacking felt weird, not quite off beat and not quite reactive as it should be. I was also expecting the game to understand when I moved offbeat or did double-time. The games not a mind reader of course!
The game has won tonnes of indie awards and has fantastic feedback but for me, it just didn't work as I had hoped. I'd urge people to do their best to try the game first and work out if you "click" with it. I'll keep going back but for now I'm left disappointed - the learning curve is steep and I evidently couldn't handle it.