Review: Crypt of the Necrodancer


I remember when I first played this game, it was at game design camp.  We would take turns entering the dungeon and trying to get the farthest possible.  Though I would never get to truly experience going to a retro arcade as a teenager with my friends and take turns playing on one machine, but I think this must have been close to that experience.

The only rhythm games that I have played before this were DDR and actually playing musical instruments.  The genre isn’t the most popular in America, and I am no expert on it either, but when I first played this game, I thought it was one of the most creative ways to make a rhythm game.  It took something simple, and made it complex.  While this isn’t always the best thing to do, it worked for this game.

Crypt of the Necrodancer is a dungeon crawling, roguelike, rhythm game, where the player must progress through randomly generated dungeons in order to progress a story.  In the traditional game mode, the player takes control of Cadence, who starts out armed with a knife, a shovel, and a bomb.

The player must control Cadence “to the beat” for every single action done: moving, attacking, throwing, eating, or casting spells.  At the start, the only buttons that one can push are the arrows to move, attack, or dig, or two other buttons to place a bomb or throw the knife.  As one progresses through the dungeon, they may pick up other consumable food or spell items that Cadence can use.

There is also other generic roguelike dungeoney stuff:  monsters, chests, gold, shops with OP shopkeepers, traps the lead to monster rooms, secret rooms with rewards, bosses, mini bosses, gems that can be spent in the lobby to add upgrades, and this sentence is probably too long.  There are also other characters that can change up gameplay elements such as starting equipment or even removing “the beat” that you have to follow.

Much fun is to be had in the game’s lobby.  Many shops where you can upgrade what you find in chests and shops as well as permanent upgrades like increasing starting health and increasing the dropped gold multiplier.  There are also arenas where you can practice dealing with certain enemies and bosses.  Also in the lobby are tutorials with “advanced” techniques such as dealing with monster rooms or robbing shops by defeating the OP shopkeeper.

There are two words that I would use to describe this game’s gameplay.  The first word is “fun”!  It’s fun to move to the beat, it’s fun to get upgrades, it’s fun to beat enemies and bosses.  The second word is “hard”.  It’s easy to make mistakes if you’re not careful, it’s easy to lose the beat, it’s easy to accidentally attack the OP shopkeeper and just get killed by them.

Despite this game’s hard, and sometimes frustrating difficulty, that is what makes this game fun.  Though there is a story to this game, I believe it’s supposed to have an arcade-ey feel to it.  Everyone who will play this will die a lot.  For most people it will take hundreds of attempts to get through the dungeons in this game.  As I write this article, I am only on the second dungeon.

I think what makes this game such a good game is that you learn as you play, whether through tutorials, mistakes, or ideas you want to try.  There are so many different playstyles and strategies that the player can learn and try out.  I feel like this is what makes any game great.

If this were a full price, triple AAA game, I don’t think it would be worth it.  However, since this fact isn’t true, I’d say it’s worth it for the price that it is currently set, $15 on most platforms.  There is a mobile version, but don’t get it unless you have a bluetooth, physical controller, as the touchscreen controls aren’t very good.  I haven’t tried every setup possible, though I’d love to try this game with a dance pad, but any button should work fine.

Games like Crypt of the Necrodancer are good for the gaming industry, just to shake things up and encourage others to combine different genres.  There’s also a Zelda version/sequel of this game, which I will definitely consider getting after (or if) I beat Crypt of the Necrodancer.  Also, if you do decide to play this game, use good morals (the OP shopkeeper is watching your every move…).