I’d never actually played Crypt of the NecroDancer before it’s release on the App Store. Despite pretty much everyone I know personally or through social media singing its praises at every opportunity, I just hadn’t gotten around to giving the desktop version a try before now. Though to be fair, I did imagine it as the sort of game that would be best experienced on a handheld — I blame the PSP and Gitaroo Man Lives for that.
Anyway, they weren’t kidding when they said it was great.
An overzealous adventurer gets in over her head after a bit of light grave desecration and a fatal drop into a subterranean crypt. It’s okay though, because she’s brought back to life by dark magic – with her heartbeat tied to the rhythm of the crypt itself. Just another day ending in “Y,” really.
Much of Crypt of the NecroDancer will feel familiar to roguelike fans. The layout of the crypt and the placement of the enemies are randomly generated, you can find or purchase items to give your character a temporary edge (until they die), and so on. Being able to dig through certain walls is a neat addition, though, and it encourages exploration and experimentation. Finding a secret room is always a pleasure.
Then, of course, there’s the whole rhythm thing. Whenever you want to move, you have to keep to the beat of the background music. The funky, toe-tapping background music. Losing the beat doesn’t carry a massive penalty, thankfully. You earn a fair bit more gold from defeated monsters while performing well (you’ll know because of the flashy disco checkerboard tiles), but that’s about it. Although there is an un-lockable mode that kills you instantly if you mess up.
Messing up isn’t that bad, though. As you explore the crypt you’ll find diamonds, and those diamonds can be spent in the lobby between playthroughs to give you permanent boosts (i.e. more health, more defense, etc). This takes a lot of the sting out of those inevitable deaths, though any items you’ve found or bought during a playthrough, such as better weapons, will still be lost.
It’s easier than it sounds to get used to moving and attacking in time with the music. The constant, rhythmic movement became second nature to me pretty quickly, though I still fumble every now and then. Keeping track of enemies is a bit trickier, though. I wouldn’t say it’s unmanageable, but trying to remember what moves how and when in a room with three or four monster types in it – while also trying to maintain the beat – can feel like some pretty intense mental gymnastics.
Thankfully the controls don’t add to Crypt of the NecroDancer’s difficulty — or at least two of the three options don’t. It’s a bit too easy to accidentally miss tapping where you want on the virtual D-pads, but there are two other perfectly reasonable options to choose from. The swipe controls are my personal favorite as they don’t clutter up the screen and respond exactly how you’d want them to.
I’m glad I was finally able to give Crypt of the NecroDancer a try. This oddball mix of roguelike and rhythm game is a ton of fun. It’s definitely earned all the praise, and it feels right at home on a touch screen.