[early access - review]
As an avid musician and part time gamer, Crypt of the NecroDancer was a "have to" buy for me. The idea of incorporating music as the mode for a metronomic gameplay system was intriguing. After finally getting this loaded up, I thought for sure that I had an advantage in this game given that I've honed my own internal metronome for nearly a quarter century and my gaming skills for nearly 3 decades but little did I know that this game puts a whole new meaning into the expression "beat down." To elaborate on that further frankly, I got beat down to the down beat.
With NecroDancer, it takes more than just timing and gaming experience to survive, as this is a calculated, quick-witted, speed chess match and really is not a game you are going to get far in if you are distracted or not all in to it.
The sound track is great and is one of the biggest reasons (for me anyways) to play this game. Being that I am a musician, my rig is setup with an audio controller and studio monitors, so that I can pump out some decibels and at high volumes this game sounds even better! If you don't have a decent sound setup, a good pair of headphones is crucial. The sound track has a wide range musical styles from the trancey-technoish electronic, chillin mellow reggae-ish, flowing hip hop beats, beatnik jazzy swing, to the grinding heavy metal; all of which is synthesized and composed sequencing. This is understandable considering the game play is tempo driven, though from a musicians point of view, some music wasn't meant to be synthesized and even though musically it is written well, the metal doesn't feel right. A minor gripe. Regardless, every style has a lot of energy with a beat that really delivers the tempo when playing. My last gripe, though petty, I think a little more could be done with the sound effects during gameplay to incorporate them into the music a little cleaner, being that attacks and movement must be done on beat. It is still early access, so we'll see.
There are 2 things that bothered me about this game. One I can look past and most people do not mind the uncontemporized 8-bit graphics but I'm hoping there is a little bit more updating to set it aside from the rest (again, early access). My other issue I had was perplexing and that was the controls. After calibrating to compensate for the latencies, I went to the options to personalize my joystick controls. The devs offer a lot of options in this screen, which is nice, but they have controls labeled 'Combo: Up + Down', 'Combo: Left + Right', 'Combo: Up + left', etc... that you assign to a button. What? This was confusing at first. Well, turns out that these are for using items and using some menu functions. It gives the controls an additional method by using both the movement combinations as well as assigning it to a button. This gives a huge advantage for using a keyboard over a joystick. I also found that when using the keyboard, it was much easier to keep the timing, as though it felt more "instrumenty' than the joystick. My last gripe about the controls is that they are not actually "full controller supported" as stated on the store page. Stick 2 on my 360 controller could not be assigned controls during setup. Oh well, I like the keyboard more for this game anyways!
The gameplay is simple. Using the directionals, you move and attack on beat. The enemies will too, though they all do not move the same manner or count and as I mentioned earlier, this really makes it more of a speed chess match. If you are in the wrong square, miss a beat, or move incorrectly, it could mean game over. This adds a whole new dimension of difficult and for those of you that cannot keep a beat there are additional modes, like turn based, so even the musically challenged can enjoy this game. There are a lot of power ups and items available, though at the moment doesn't exactly feel "rouge-like" just yet but I'm sure that'll change. There are also a multitude of in game mutations that ramp the difficulty level up significantly. Even without them, this game is hard, which should appeal to anyone who likes a challenge in gaming.
*Also note: do not expect a huge amount of content out of the box, at this stage in early access there are few levels offered in Crypt of the NecroDancer. At the moment 4 levels consisting of 3 stages and a boss level. (I'll update this review as the developers do... can't get enough of this game) There is also a daily challenge, though I'm not sure why these resources are not allocated to coding, sprites, music, sound, etc...
Music Driven Rogue-Like.Graphics:
8-bit. They are okay but would like to see them a little more contemporized.Sound:
Sound Track is Phenomenal (by gaming standards)! Sound effects are good but again, I'd like to hear them mixed in on tempo with the music, making them one and the same.Controls:
Great with a keyboard. Though, as of now it’s a little disappointing with a controller but still decent. Replayability:
Yes. The addition of seeding gives this game a ton of potential. Overall:
8/10 – Though it is nothing to scoff at, once new features, updates, and fixes are implemented; I'm sure this rating will be much higher in Crypt of the NecroDancer's fully released state.
The element of music and gameplay make this a great game and one that I truly enjoy. I recommend this to everyone and is a must buy for anyone who likes musically driven games.