Your Groove, Get It On In ‘Crypt Of The Necrodancer’Filed inside: Games
The marriage of unusual genres can result in some truly interesting concepts. The traditional roguelike on its own is a mashup of complementary genre paradigms: the adventure/dungeon crawler paired with an RPG’s sense of progression an acquisition. Rhythm games often stand on their own, and though previous attempts have been made to inject another mechanic here or there, we finally have a game that managed it, and managed it extremely well, in Crypt of the Necrodancer. And it’s not even done yet.
It really is an unexpected pairing. Roguelikes are games that reward careful forethought and planning to yield success. Carefully considering your character’s loadout and things like knowing when to run and understanding your limitations are incredibly important. That’s why roguelikes and most roguelites are so compelling. There’s not a single way to rampage to victory, you start with the same base, but your character grows into something that is only moderately within your control. The weapons and equipment that become available are randomly determined, and one that’s useful in one situation may not be in another. It’s one of the reasons these games are either turn-based, or feature some kind of active pause system, to allow you to consider your actions carefully and maximize efficiency. Failure to do so will definitely result in your failure.
So imagine, instead, having to do all these things while under the duress of a pounding rhythmic beat. It’s perhaps one of the most inventive methods for dungeon crawling I’ve experienced to date.
Story details are fairly thin at this point, but these aren’t the sort of games that demand depth of narrative. You play as Cadence, a young girl in search of her father. Her family claims she is too young to venture into the world alone, that the dangers are too great, but ever forceful of will, Cadence proceeds to the last known location of her missing father: The Crypt of the Necrodancer.
While attempting to dig down into the crypt, however, the ground collapses below her, and she strikes her head on a rock in what should have been a lethal fall. While unconscious, the Necrodancer finds her and steals her heart, cursing it to forever beat to the music he provides. As she comes to, Cadence feels her heart beating still and must not only try to find her father, but recover her heart and defeat the Necrodancer, as well.
The translation to gameplay of this is that every stage has an original song by one of my favorite game music artists, Danny Baranowski (known for soundtracks like the Super Meat Boy soundtrack or the original Binding of Isaac tunes). In order to be successful, you have to navigate and attack monsters with the beat of the music. You essentially have the space of your approach to a given enemy or environmental hazard to determine how you’ll handle it, if at all.
My strongest concern going in was exactly how Cadence would fight her enemies. In most games of this sort, monsters will have general dispositions that you can predict, but more often than not, they rampage forward and try to kill you as fast as they’re able. Enemies in Crypt of the Necrodancer, however, are also slaves to the beat, and all have a particular style to go along with that. Essentially, every monster has a distinct movement pattern or behavior, to give you a chance to handle them from an angle or in a way that is the safest.
Green slimes, for instance, don’t move at all, and can’t hurt you. They exist as organic roadblocks. Blue slimes, however, will move up one square, rest for a beat, then move down a square and rest for a beat. You’re totally safe from harm if you fight a blue slime from the side, and with proper timing, you can occupy a space vertically and still kill the slime without being hurt. Skeletons will approach you directly on every other beat, throwing their arms up before they attack. Fighting a skeleton is more about moving in at the right moment, or dodging to the side and countering their approach.