Crypt of the NecroDancer
Now Available on Steam
Developed by Brace Yourself Games
"Kick! Punch! It's all in the mind."
These words were spoken by the great Tamanegi Sensei (better known as Chop Chop Master Onion) over 15 years ago when music-based games were first making a name, and they ring even truer today as the rhythm genre takes an evolutionary step into the dungeon crawling arena.
NecroDancer is the holy matrimony between addictive rhythm game grooviness and challenging roguelike complexity, and I'll be damned if it doesn't hit the spot. It's amazing that a concept this unique took as long as it did to come to fruition, but it's been more than worth the wait.
Not only is the concept unique but it's done right, something we hardly ever see when a new mechanic or gimmick is introduced to the gaming world for the first time. We see so many "new" ideas that are merely just a melting pot of previously established genres.
Lo and behold, these developers have obviously set out to refine and perfect their concoction of varied gameplay elements on their first attempt and that is highly admirable. Necrodancer stands not only as a magnificently well-realized combination of genres but as a completely new experience of it's own and the start of what is hopefully a new trend of taking fun and risky chances in game development.
The in-game music is dark, fantastic and quite danceable itself lending to the blissful feeling of hitting each beat of the song with perfect timing. The precision of the music-based movement has lead lots of early adopters of the game to swear by playing with DDR dancepads which apparently add a lot to the fun and engaging nature of exploring the Crypt.
This shows a serious level of dedication from the rhythm game community and has already garnered enough attention to spawn it's own design of custom NecroDancer dancepads.
And if you somehow are crazy enough to get tired of renowned composer Danny Baranowsky's heavy electronic horror jams, the game features an intuitive beat detection function for usage of songs from your own library.
The detection of beats in your songs is generally spot on, and makes trying and discovering those perfect tunes for the game infinitely explorable and replayable for audiophiles in the same way games like Audiosurf and Beat Hazard provide endless entertainment. Even for those songs that might be a bit too fast or slow for manageable NecroDancing, there's a feature to alter the speed of in-game beats to give more accessibility for a wider range of genres. No form of music shall go undanced in the heart of these Crypts.
There are four main floors to the game with three levels and a boss-type enemy each, but beating any single one of them won't be an easy task. You will retry many times being forced to scour every diamond, buy up all the upgrades, and loot your way through multiple plays before you succeed.
What makes this so much more of a pleasure to replay than any other games which borrow rogue elements, however, is the musical nature of the game. NecroDancer replaces the repetitive and stale turn-based combat of traditional roguelikes with the fun and engaging audio interaction of the best rhythm games made to date.
With a touch of the strategic approach of traditional tactics games, the enemies each have a very distinct pattern to their movements and attacks that the player must learn through multiple failures and awareness.
Starting out you encounter the easier monsters such as slimes that move passively back and forth as well as skeletons that follow behind in a predictable way that is easy to counter. Protecting the exit of each floor are the harder and more complex mini-bosses, ranging from hulking Minotaurs that charge towards you in a straight path or determined Dragons that you must outsmart and keep just out of harm's way in order to retain your doomed life just a little longer.
Throughout your journeys into the crypt you'll have two different forms of currency, first being gold coins that you can spend within the levels at merchants on equipment and items to help you on your current run.
Second, and most importantly are the much harder to find Diamonds which are the only thing that carry over into the lobby after death, allowing you to purchase upgrades to the gear and loot you come across during your runs. This adds an insanely addictive level of persistence in the same way that the character growth in Rogue Legacy or shortcut system of Spelunky do.
The shops you purchase these upgrades from won't be made available to you that easily, however, as each of the different merchants and trainers you need will be imprisoned and strewn about the various dungeons forcing you to dance deeper and deeper to rescue the people you will rely on in the future.
The game is hard and you'll die many times, but the deeper you go the more you discover, and the more you discover the easier your respective trips will become. This adds a ridiculous amount of replayability and persistence to an already engaging and genre defying new formula.
Here I am hopping and slashing away to the beat of Castlevania's 'Vampire Killer', and I come across a Blood Whip. Things could not be more perfect. NecroDancer isn't just a gimmick, it's the start of something beautiful. It's a new kind of entertainment that can be enjoyed from the hardecore-est of dungeon delving roguelite aficionados to the most casual of rhythm game fans, but there is one thing that all of these demographics must have in common; a dedication to the sound of music.