I have recently realized that I may actually have a weakness for roguelike games. After I played Rogue Legacy pretty regularly a few years ago (and then went back and replayed it some more after I got my PS4), I determined that I really like smaller indie games over big AAA titles. I figured the appeal of Rogue Legacy had more to do with it being a side scrolling mini-metroidvania than the roguelike elements. Of course, I love any game that has built in upgrade trees (it’s the most entertaining way to trick a player into gradually turning the difficulty down on a game), and Rogue Legacy has that in spades. In contrast, I don’t get the urge to go back to Don’t Starve very often (alas, my Survivor’s Log series!), largely because the upgrade systems don’t carry over from one game to the next.
Enter Crypt of the NecroDancer. This game is unapologetically a roguelike: randomly generated dungeons, total loss of progress when you die, and upgrades that you don’t get to take with you on subsequent playthroughs. It should not be a game that so grabs my interest, but it has this catchy dance soundtrack, and the core of the gameplay is something akin to speed chess (I don’t know how accurate this comparison is, because after a while you get used to the tempo of gameplay and it doesn’t feel like you have too little time to think out moves most of the time), and the main character is an awesome lady-type person who is apparently dead but doesn’t realize it. It’s a patently ridiculous premise, but the execution works really well for me (maybe I just really like rhythm game elements).
I bring all this up because I have wasted so much time in the last two weeks playing this game when I could have been doing one of many other much more productive things. It’s been such a long time since I had the inclination to play a game as regularly as this one. I don’t know how long the impulse is going to last; I’m inching my way towards completing the main story, and once I do that I don’t know how much longer I’ll stick around. The abilities of some of the other unlockable characters are really interesting and give different twists on the main mechanic (the monk is especially infuriating because the first thing you have to do when playing as him is remember that gold will instantly kill you; after so many sessions where it becomes second nature to just move into enemies’ squares to get the loot after you vanquish them, there are a lot of false starts and sudden deaths just before reaching the end of a zone), but they don’t have storylines of their own, which is understandable, if disappointing. Still, the character mechanics are varied enough that they might be fun for a while longer.
Besides the mechanics, which I think are generally aces all around, the game also has a wonderful aesthetic style. It’s slightly retro with pixelated graphics and cut scenes that feature low resolution still images of the characters with slightly hammy voice acting. It’s a blast.
Though I’m not yet done with the story (there’s more after you beat the game with Cadence), I’m getting a huge kick out of the decision to center it around three generations of female adventurers. Cadence’s father, Dorian, is the catalyst for the story, setting off to find a magical golden lute that can resurrect the dead after his wife Melody dies, but he disappears before the main action of the story and plays a relatively minor role when you reach the point where you learn about his fate. I also like that the designers built in the option to palette swap Cadence so that she can be either Black or white (though I am disappointed that they didn’t include modified artwork for the cut scenes that reflect when she’s reskinned as Black; it’d also be nice if they had included palette swaps for all the characters).
Overall, I have to say that Crypt of the NecroDancer is a solid game to pass the time with. If you like rhythm games and dungeon crawling, it would make a good investment.