Developed by:Brace Yourself Games Published by:Brace Yourself Games/Klei Entertainment Genre(s):
  • Action RPG
  • Rhythm
  • Platform:
  • Handhelds
  • Microsoft
  • Nintendo
  • PC
  • Sony
  • Cost:$14.99 ESRB Rating:RATING PENDING Players:1 Release date:April 23, 2015 Reviewed on:PC

    Crypt of the NecroDancer

    Crypt of the NecroDancer is one of the best rhythm based action games released in recently memory. I’m not talking about a Guitar Hero or Just Dance. No, this is something special. Something akin to PaRappa the Rapper, it’s a title that could ideally create its own genre of game. Brace Yourself Games has blended rhythm-based gameplay with role playing mechanics and roguelike elements, creating an awesome gaming experience!

    Before I go too far on the hype train, let me back up a bit to explain what’s what. Crypt of the NecroDancer places the player in the shoes of Cadence, daughter of Melody and Dorian (I love the musical terms). After her mother’s death, her father Dorian went missing; apparently he delved into the Crypt to find something important. Cadence, looking to find her dad retraces his steps. Upon arriving at the crypt, a series of events results in the ground opening up causing her to crash through the crypt’s roof. Lying on the floor unconscious, the NecroDancer appears and steals her heart, forcing it to beat to the music. Now not only does Cadence need to find her dad and whatever he was looking for, she also has to get her heart back.

    The game is played from a top down perspective like most dungeon crawlers. Though unlike those other games, everything is literally tied to the music so you’ll only need the directional keys to play (or the arrows on a dance pad if you actually feel like “dancing”). Moving Cadence around the crypt, attacking enemies, gathering items, etc. – all have to be done on beat. Pressing a direction before or after the beat will have no effect; Cadence will stand in place while the word “missed” floats above her head whenever you’re off beat. Menu based stuff and world interactions are handled the same way. For instance, walking over armor will equip it, replacing whatever was there before while pressing towards an unlocked door will open it. This set up simplifies all of the normal mechanics you’d find in similar games.

    Though the controls are simple, the game is anything but. Each level or zone is broken into four floors – three normal ones and one that houses a boss. The idea is to find and slay a mini-boss in order to unlock the steps leading down to the next floor before the current track stops. That said, the layout of each floor and the enemies you’ll face are all randomly generated. The only thing that stays the same is the track selection and the enemy types that are allowed to spawn (you won’t see zone two enemies on zone one floors). If you don’t make it to the exit before the music stops, that doesn’t mean its game over though. Once it stops you’ll be dropped to the next floor. While it’s great that you are closer to the zone boss, where you get dropped is always random. You might end up in a place surrounded by enemies. It’s much safer to find the steps as they’ll lead to an enemy-free area every time. As it’s the only advantage to clearing a floor before the track ends, it is possible to use it to your advantage if you can’t defeat the current floor’s mini-boss though. After weighing the risks, it’ll be up to you how to proceed.

    Along the way you’ll take on an assortment of monsters, each with different patterns that need to be learned before engaging. A simple example can be seen in the dancing skeletons who hop to the beat while constantly raising and lowering their hands. If you press in their direction when they are facing you with their hands up, you’ll get hit. However, if you press in their direction when their hands are down (or from behind) you’ll hit them without getting hit back. You also have to be mindful that you can only do one move/action at a time. You can’t move close to a monster and attack, it has to be one or the other. So if you move towards the skeleton when his hands are up, hoping to attack him before the next beat (or before he can hit you back) it won’t work. You’ll both end up exchanging blows. Take too many hits and its game over, resulting in you having to start from the beginning of the zone (yes that means back to the first floor).

    The game’s difficulty stems from the enemies and the roguelike elements. Death means you have to start over from the beginning and it can be tricky to take on a group of monsters all while staying on beat. The random layouts and encounters don’t help things either. What’s great though is that the game was designed to be fair. There are no cheap kills or unavoidable death traps. It also doesn’t center on trial and error, forcing players to die over and over before learning how to better approach a given situation. Sure, there are sneaky enemies (like a ghost that goes intangible the moment you look at it) and tough bosses, but none of them are impossible to beat on the first encounter.

    As the player, you will however, be able to decide how punishing you want your experience to be. If you play the story mode, you’ll be tasked with completing each zone without dying. If you play the normal mode, you’ll still get to see the narrative play out but if you die you’ll just have to start at the beginning of the current zone and not the entire game. There are also other playable characters that change up the gameplay when unlocked. One character, named Dove, just so happens to be a pacifist who refuses to attack enemies. All of the stairs are unlocked and there are no bosses for her to fight, so once she clears the third floor of each zone she can go straight to the next. That said, trying to get around enemies without a means of fighting back can be super tough.

    Crypt of the NecroDancer also keeps your progression. When in the crypt, the player can collect gold and diamonds. The gold allows them to buy items in the current zone, like better weapons, armor and keys to unlock trapped NPC’s. The diamonds though, are held until you die. Once you die and you head back to the hub area, you’ll be able to use them to purchase progressive items from the rescued NPC’s. These items can be chest unlocks, which determine which items will become available to spawn in the randomly placed chests. They can also be permanent upgrades like more hearts (longer life bar) or an increase in coin drop percentages. One of the better purchases happens to be practice rooms. For hefty diamond deposit, it’s possible to purchase a room that will allow you to practice fighting the game’s enemies and bosses. All of these things will make your frequent treks into the crypt a little more manageable – Cadence will become stronger and you’ll learn the ins and outs of your opponents over time.

    With a game that is all about the music, it would be bad if the soundtrack was lacking. That’s not the case here at all. NecorDancer is filled with hip 8-bit, techno/disco…look, Danny Baranowsky is a genius. Credit must also go to the developers that integrated his music into every aspect of the game. I especially love the singing shop keep that sits in the crypt and bellows along with the music. It’s incredibly charming. Speaking of charming, the creative monsters (there’s a killer mole with shades), the music-oriented character names and vibrant, pixelated visuals are just that.

    I don’t think each element of NecroDancer is revolutionary when looked at individually. It’s the combination of these interesting mechanics and aesthetics that make this game something great. It provides a great challenge but is also fair. The monsters are as silly as they are deadly, the music is pleasing to the ears, and the visuals are in line with the retro vibe.  There are plenty of modes to tackle including a cooperative mode played locally and a weekly challenge that can be tried every four hours. All and all, it’s one of the best games I’ve played this year!



    Crypt of the NecroDancer is a refreshing take on multiple genres and immensely entertaining.



    The silly, yet charming characters and monsters are a treat for the eyes. And while they aren’t the most visually impressive PC title, the art direction fits the stylish retro vibe Brace Yourself Games was trying to get across.



    Danny Baranowsky did a great job composing the soundtrack for NecroDancer.

    Replay Value:


    The random nature of things and the weekly challenges will keep players coming back to this game!

    Final Score:


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