Crypt of the Necro Dancer / 17th of August 2014
Crypt of the Necro Dancer is a game that I’ve had my eye on now because of its rather wild, and completely baffling concept. It is, as its developer, Brace Yourself Games, put it, it’s a rhythm action rogue-like game. Now that may not mean much to some of you out there, but essentially, it simply entails that this is a hard as nails dungeon crawler that you play to the rhythm of its soundtrack, and it is of course, this last aspect that makes Crypt of the Necro Dancer an especially intriguing prospect, but does it work?
Well, the short answer to this question would be, yes. The dungeon floors of a level change colours to the music, as though residing under the flashing lights and twirling disco ball of a seventies nightclub, with each one being passed upon either finding the exit or surviving long enough for the music track to finish. Each floor appears to be procedurally generated and houses its own sub-boss, apart from the fourth, and final map of the area, wherein the main boss can be found. Completing the level by holding out until the music ends results in the player missing out on any rewards, and so, time is also a factor in Crypt of the Necro Dancer’s well balanced gameplay.
Inventory management is carried out automatically, with spells, armour, accessories and weapons automatically equipping themselves, though of course, this means that gamers run the risk of swapping a powerful weapon for a less impressive one, though switching back is obviously just a matter of moving over the weapon that you wish to pick up. The controls for the game are very simplistic, with only the cursor keys being employed for movement, attacking an enemy is carried out automatically by simply pressing in the direction of the fiend that you wish to slaughter. Some enemies are obviously stronger than others and therefore require more hits in order to be vanquished, with boss characters requiring a bit more tact and occasionally some extra firepower too. The player is equipped with a bomb, this covers a wide area of the screen and inflicts massive damage on enemies caught near the epicentre of its explosion, whilst magic spells can also assist greatly in such situations and typically offer far greater range too.
There are a whole host of play options in the game, including tutorials and daily challenges, there is also a music import option so that the game can be played along to custom soundtracks, though in the build that I played, this option, rather sadly, did not appear to work. Crypt of the Necro Dancer is still in its alpha phase just now, however, so it will still be the recipient of additional work and content over time. In terms of its soundtrack though, it features sixteen original tunes from Danny Baranowsky, the man responsible for the Super Meat Boy soundtrack, all of his compositions are suitably low-res to match the game’s visual style and vary in tempo to ensure that the later levels increase in difficulty.
During play, players will come across both gold and diamonds, the former being used in the stores found smattered across the levels to purchase temporary items that last only until the player eventually dies, whilst the latter are far more valuable indeed. Upon meeting with the obligatory game over screen, players who have successfully discovered a diamond or more, should return to the lobby where they can use these sought after items to purchase permanent upgrades, these could be an increased health bar, unlocking higher grade accessories and spells, and also improving both the quality and quantity of items collected during play. Naturally, these are essential in attempting to progress through the game, and lend it some much needed depth.
However, personally, I don’t think that it is enough, given the simplicity of the game’s controls and automatic inventory management, I don’t feel as though I am actually doing very much at all, and therefore find that the game simply does not feel rewarding enough. The game is certainly fun in short bursts, but it will never offer you the length of play or sense of depth that a more traditional role playing game would, naturally, this isn’t what Brace Yourself were going for, but still, Crypt of the Necro Dancer will only ever be a game that can be played in short sessions. In terms of its presentation, the game could also be improved, with menus feeling a tad cluttered and not quite user friendly enough, still this is only a very minor gripe and it is certainly something that the team could iron out prior to the game’s full release.
In all, it’s hard not to recommend Crypt of the Necro Dancer, it may only offer small chunks of enjoyable gameplay, but it’s cheap enough (£10.99) to make it a more than viable purchase. For those that do manage to put more time into it, they will be rewarded with new game modes, including a Hardcore mode wherein players must attempt to tackle all four areas in a single sitting, and some intriguing boss fights too. I feel that I must also point out that the game is actually compatible with dance mat accessories, and whilst that may not mean a heck of a lot to most of us, there are probably some out there who will rejoice in that fact. So, it’s safe enough to assert that Crypt of the Necro Dancer certainly may not be for everybody, but it is certainly worth a look.