Warning: minor spoilers ahead.
I first heard of this game through the YouTuber and musician FamilyJules7x; he had announced on his channel that he helped write the soundtrack for the game, as well as recorded a whole remixed version of the soundtrack. I looked it up, thought it looked interesting, and ended up buying it a few months later.
Crypt of the NecroDancer is a rhythm-based rogue-lite game developed by Brace Yourself Games. You play as Cadence, traversing through hazardous and randomly-generated dungeons. As you progress through the dungeons, you will unlock shortcuts so you don’t have to start from the beginning when you die, and you’ll earn diamonds to unlock new items and challenges. The major twist, though, is that Cadence must be moved in time with the beat of the soundtrack.
The soundtrack is one of the most important parts of the game, and that’s what makes it awesome. The main soundtrack is composed and recorded by the excellent Danny Baranowsky. Anything he creates is catchy, and that is reflected in the game. The Steam version of NecroDancer also comes with two other soundtracks: a metal soundtrack performed by the aforementioned FamilyJules7x, and an EDM album recorded by A_Rival. (Also, two other awesome soundtracks were recorded for the PlayStation versions of the game!) Both of these soundtracks, while being cover albums of the original soundtrack, add an excellent twist to the game and keeps it fresh. That’s always a good thing, especially if you’re going to be dying and replaying levels over and over. Also, if you desire, you can import your own music to use for the background music. (The Shopkeeper won’t sing along for custom tracks.) You may have to tweak the BPM settings for each song, but it’s worth it if you can find a select few good tracks to jam to.
Everything responds to the music, and it’s here that I appreciate the level to detail. The Shopkeeper sings along with each of the game’s background tracks; it’s always a treat when I happen to be dancing past a shop and he’s vocalizing. Each of the creature/character sprites are animated to keep in time with the music; monkeys clap, skeletons shake their bodies, and the Shopkeeper’s lips move. It’s fantastic to experience.
Soundtrack aside, the game contains your standard rogue-lite fare: you proceed through randomly-generated levels; unlock areas, equipment, and characters; and if you die once, it’s game over. There are four areas that (honestly) remind me a little too much of Spelunky’s locations; the colors and overall settings are very similar. The shortcut-unlocking mechanic is also similar to Spelunky. Despite that, however, this game stands well on its own, apart from the other giants of the recent rogue-lite explosion.
Crypt of the NecroDancer contains several unlockable characters, some of which are linked to the game’s “New Game +” or “New Game ++” modes. Each character has different abilities, handicaps, and items to give a different experience every time. Some characters will die if you skip a beat. Some will die if you touch gold. Some have different weapons. All of them are enjoyable to play as.
You can use a keyboard, controller, or dance pad for the game. I spent most of my gameplay using a keyboard, and that was very effective. I didn’t play much with my controller, and I don’t see how someone could; it seemed to be unnecessarily difficult. (Maybe I didn’t set my button scheme right.) However, I really wish I had the opportunity to try it with a dance pad; this seems like the perfect game to try that with.
In the end, I recommend you give this game a try. It’s fun, it’s unique, it’s challenging, and it’ll keep you entertained. It’s well worth the price tag, and the soundtracks are still enjoyable after your first few dozen listens. And hey, if you try it with a dance pad, let me know how it plays; I might have to pick one up if it gets good enough reviews.
Price: $15 on all platforms
Platforms: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita