Taking a dungeon crawling roguelike and rhythm game and mashing them together may seem a little incongruous at first glance. However, it doesn't take Crypt of the NecroDancer long to prove that the two not only work well together, but complement each other perfectly.
Don't drop the beat
When I first saw Crypt of the NecroDancer I thought I knew what I was in for – a turn-based roguelike with randomly generated grid-based dungeons to battle my way through. And I was right... Kind of.
You do indeed have to make your way through dungeons moving one square at a time, while enemies match your every action with a movement or attack of their own - like a huge game of chess. Plus, in classic roguelike fashion, death resets your progress, leaving you with the just the few precious diamonds you may have collected on your latest run to improve your character and the world for subsequent attempts.
What I didn't anticipate was that you would have to do all of this to the beat. Silly, I know, with a name like Crypt of the NecroDancer I probably should have put two and two together. But each move you make has to be made to the beat of the fantastic music.
It is only by hopping at just the right moment that you are able to effectively attack and move. More importantly though, each of the 16-bit, pixel-art enemies also move to the beat. This means that even when you miss a beat, the green slime, Minotaur, or other beasts are still able to attack you – shifting the gameplay from turn based to rhythm based.
This mechanic initially feels like it has been thrown in solely to frustrate, but the beauty of it is soon revealed. By forcing your movements, it retains the tactics and strategy of a roguelike – but forces a far more rapid thought process. Not only do you need rhythm, you also need tactics.
Learning enemy attack patterns and movement is vital to cracking the speedy strategic-puzzle each randomly generated level presents as you make your way to the exit. Learning how blue slimes move every other beat, or how skeletons raise their arms before attacking, ties the rhythm and tactics together in a truly unique way – creating something that demands careful consideration and rapid reactions in a single moment.
Thus, the music and rhythm weave their way into all facets of the Crypt of the NecroDancer – making it especially fortunate that every tune is fantastic. Each level has its own unique track to mark your progress down into the depth of the NecroDancer’s dungeon. Each one of the soundtrack's chiptunes has a satisfying solid beat, and I defy you not to nod along as you play. I know I did, even playing on my laptop in a café.
Please don't stop the music
Crypt of the NecroDancer has superbly interwoven its music and dungeon diving mechanics, creating something truly special. It can seem punishingly hard until you learn the patterns and tactics, but restarting never feels like a punishment because just tapping along to the beat is consistently so satisfying.