As an admitted roguelike addict willing to play the best and worst the genre has to offer, it’s embarrassing I never played Crypt of the Necrodancer during its run through Steam Early Access. I made up for that and then some after the game hit full release, losing hours and hours to an absorbing and satisfying experience.

Brace Yourself Games created an innovative adventure out of a very old genre, taking many of the core concept and transforming it with music. What is normally a device for creating atmosphere takes prominence in Crypt of the Necrodancer in a way that is unique compared to its peers.

Roguelikes often come in two forms: the chess model emphasizing strategic and tactical thinking or the more arcadey ones that fill the screen with enemies and create tension by emphasizing the permadeath aspect. Necrodancer manages to create something in between by using mechanics more often seen in the Dance Dance Revolution machines in local arcades. Its isometric gameplay with movements done one square at a time but only to the beat of music, rewarding players that move at a specific pace. Money is doled out for every kill with a multiplier added with every enemy that is successfully defeated, but keeping that multiplier requires constant movement.

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The result is a game that is kinetic and never dull when combined with the procedurally generated dungeons, pickups and enemies. Players aren’t the only ones that move to music, for even the enemies attacks and movements fall on specific beats. Every encounters become a game of recognizing the pattern and inherent rhythm of every enemy. This served to keep the experience fresh when the areas are covered with enemies each attacking on different beat. Throw in boss battles that have their own unique tracks and you have something that always feels fresh.

The music does not disappoint — it is well produced and pairs well with the zones that serve as their backdrop. The haunted forest with its unsure and often eerie rhythm made every move feel tentative and slow and the dank dungeon with a frantic and noisy track pleaded me to move quickly and escape. Necrodancer never failed to set an appropriate stage for the journey and it was engrossing.

Aside from the gameplay, the full release of Necrodancer features enough wrinkles to satisfy both hardcore and casual players of the game. There are extra characters that add restrictions to gameplay, emphasizing certain items or even changing the music of levels. To accommodate the more hardcore players, there is the option to experiment. The game includes separate rooms where I could practice against specific bosses or even individual enemies after encountering them for the first time in game.

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The story in Necrodancer is compelling enough to justify the unforgiving nature of a roguelike. The default character is Cadence, a woman who descended into the crypt to discover what happened to her father. She comes under the power of a necromancer who gains control of her heart. Finishing each zone warrants a cutscene explaining her backstory and reason for going down into the crypt. There are other characters to play that often have special restrictions in game and revealing their story helps paint the picture of a family of dungeon crawlers. I found each cutscene to well animated and the voice acting done right making the bits of story a worthy reward for successfully finishing each level.

It may have taken me a while to discover what many fans of Crypt of the Necrodancer already know, but the full release is a worthy end to what was a long stay on Early Access. The result is a well rounded game that delivers on an innovative take on an old and popular genre.

About The Author

Editor In Chief

Jose is a straight shooter who always goes the paragon route. He joined the team at Indie Haven to spread the word about indie games all across the galaxy. When not aboard the Normandy, he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area playing video games and plotting ways to rid the world of games like Colonial Marines.

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