A project four years in the making, Courier of the Crypts embodies the spirit of the Zelda series’ dungeon crawling with a heavy focus on a multipurpose, magical torch. However, the game’s early demo fails to illustrate the integral purposes of the torch, rarely using the item in any meaningful capacity.

The game opens with a rather macabre scene involving a ritualistic killing before winding back to the warm and vibrant visual aesthetics of a top-down village from the SNES era. The sunlit area surely impresses, but the pixel art truly shines when the protagonist makes his way to the eponymous crypt.

Within the sepulcher, bloodied skeletons sit beside overgrowing vines and piles of rubble from the decaying stone walls. Despite the careful attention to detail, the art feels fairly basic aside from the dynamic lighting system. Areas of the map truly hide under a pitch-black coat of shadows while others exist in the soft edges of dim, dying flames.

The plot concerns a Courier who must make a three-day trek to another town. Of course, the path to the village runs through an eerie crypt housing a sect of cultists. Upon entering the catacomb, the boy falls through a faulty floor panel, becoming trapped within the tomb. Collecting a magical torch, the player is forced to travel through spider-infested, booby-trapped levels. Following the basic format of the genre, the Courier searches the crypt for keys and items to unlock doors blocking the exit.

Without the torch’s influence, enemies hone in on the Courier. However, the player can defend themselves with rocks gathered throughout the level. Combat feels basic when facing off against a single opponent, but the game also features engaging multi-enemy gauntlets requiring careful precision, not unlike a bullet-hell game. The collision detection currently feels a little off, particularly with projectiles and their position in the Y-axis, but such elements should be fixed in the final product. Courier of the Crypts can be unforgiving initially as dying throws the player back to the start of the level, but once the mechanics come into focus, the difficulty creates a nice sense of danger.

In nearly all circumstances, though, the torch can be snuffed in favor of simply fighting. Indeed, most of the early obstacles forego the use of the item. Nothing separates the game from its influences better than the magic torch, and unfortunately, it feels relegated to a support role in the first chapter. No darkened path or deadly battleground necessarily needs light from the torch to traverse. The puzzles themselves — understandably basic so early in the game — don’t require much aside from a quick press of a button. And with the copious ammo lying around the level, repelling the enemy feels rather useless compared to spamming rocks.

The torch itself has a life bar, replenished with a finite number of small flames found throughout the level. If not careful, managing the torch’s life can become a challenge in itself. Because of this, searching out secret areas stashing flames becomes integral.

The strongest moments from the demo concern these hidden nooks and crannies, which, along with fuel, conceal collectibles like gold coins (used later in the game to purchase upgrades like extra life and slower flame consumption) and secret Relics. Strewn throughout the world are letters from deceased scribes. One such note talks of a hidden room behind a book-shelf, and actually being able to discover the secret feels rewarding, especially when it results in ever-important fuel for the torch. Also of note, the letters read far better than the awkward dialogue from the game’s introductory scenes.

Still, the exploration would receive a huge boost if the torch needed to be used far more, requiring even more fuel. A trailer of the game offers a glimpse of how the item will be used in later levels. The magic torch reveals hidden symbols essential to a puzzle and a mass of spiders hunting the Courier shows the futility of combat in some situations. The pieces to a challenging, atmospheric puzzler are surely present in the early build of the game, but the opening level lacks the ingenuity required to effectively put the building blocks together. Hopefully, if the title gets funded on IndieGoGo, these issues get ironed out, because Courier of the Crypts could be something absolutely worth recommending.

About The Author

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Matt Perez is a freelance writer from South Jersey. The journalism graduate produces narrative-focused YouTube gaming videos under the name strummerdood. When not comparing Dark Souls to Rustin Cohle, he occasionally retweets eloquent people @mattryanperez.

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