What if life had a unique soundtrack and everything moved to its beat? People, animals, cars, even the trees swaying in the breeze would react to this vital rhythm which was leading the world forward (and sideways even, if it came down to twerking and stuff). It’s a very cute and even cheesy idea in which everything in the world is connected and probably a lot happier. Crypt of the NecroDancer somehow took this idyllic setting and turned into a curse.
This game, developed by Brace Yourself Games, is a hardcore rhythm-based dungeon crawler. Cadence, the main character, has just been cursed and her heart stolen (quite literally) by the evil NecroDancer. It is up to her now to slay this monstrous underground lord and save herself or resign to being a slave of the rhythm for all eternity.
While Crypt of the NecroDancer is a Steam Early Access title and is still under development, its core game mechanics and general idea are already very solid.
The game mechanics are pretty simple: using only movement controls you walk through procedurally generated dungeons. Actions are taken by “bumping” into things. If it’s a monster, you attack, if it is a wall, you dig. Wether attacking monsters or digging through walls however, these actions are affected by a huge selection of different items, from weapons that deal more damage or have special attacks to spells, and even different mining tools.
The variety is further increased by shrines found within each level, which modify the adventuring experience by darkening the dungeons or changing the player’s gear for breakable items, just to name a few. There are also magic rings, pieces of armor, torches, scrolls, crowns and a whole lot of other things I myself haven’t found yet. The variety is really amazing and since these items are either purchased from NPCs or found in chests, they offer a random element that, added to the dungeon generation system, creates an incredible replayability value.
This game has even more options that enhance its gameplay and avoid that pesky feeling of repetition. In addition to three difficulty levels (easy, normal and hardcore), there are NPCs that, once rescued from the NecroDancer, can improve the items Cadence finds in her adventures and even allow training combats against bosses and minibosses. There is also a daily challenge room with leaderboards that are shared with the game’s community.
Now, what makes this game really interesting is the rhythm twist: music is everything. The already mentioned mechanics, which are somewhat familiar to the dungeon crawling genre, are conditioned by music. Each track dictates the tempo by which Cadence and her enemies move. In fact, even though each level has an exit leading to the next floor, the songs even determine how long a player can spend in that specific part of the dungeon: when the music stops, a trap door opens and the player is forced to move to another level.
Cadence has to move to the music. There is, of course, some tolerance, but if a beat is missed completely, that movement will be ignored, which can lead to being attacked or missing a blow. On the other hand, monsters never ever stop, unless blocked by a wall, a trap or another monster. Their movements must be predicted according to their attack patterns and the tempo of music in which every action is carried out. If you imagine all this combined, you can even get an idea of the NecroDancer’s curse: everything inside the dungeons of the NecroDancer is destined to a neverending eternity of dancing.
As a very interesting addition, this game includes the possibility of loading custom music. Using Essentia, an open source C++ library for audio analysis and audio-based music information retrieval, Crypt of the NecroDancer can process any mp3. Nonetheless, this customization process includes a hidden challenge: if our personal soundtrack is too slow, we might get bored by a slow paced game, on the other hand, if it is too fast it can become very difficult.
The variety of monsters is also great. There are 4 different worlds, each with its specific dwellers. As Cadence delves deeper into the dungeon, she encounters more difficult versions of those same enemies, as well as mini bosses. The final level in each world has a special boss.
Finally, players can also choose different characters who have special traits. There are only three extra heroes currently: Bard, whose gameplay does not depend on the rhythm; Aria, who can only use one type of weapon and dies instantly with every missed beat; and Bolt, whose world moves at doubled tempo. Other 6 characters are already under development and will soon be available.