Early Access Authorized: Crypt of the NecroDancer is a genre mash-up I never expected
I'm a sucker for rhythm games, even more so when they're mashed up with other genres. One of the first rhythm mash-ups I remember playing was Everyday Shooter, where your shots and explosions added to the song currently playing in the level, as well as added a few musical flairs to it. Harmonix is even working on a multiplayer shooter/rhythm hybrid. But never did I expect to find a rhythm game in a dungeon crawler. And holy sh*t it's fun!
Crypt of the NecroDancer is currently in Early Access, meaning the game I'm playing currently isn't yet in its final stages. In fact, the game states it's still in alpha. What is available however, are a few zones, and four out of the eight playable characters, though I've only managed to unlock one so far, which I'll talk about in a bit.
The concept behind CotN is simple yet deep. The mechanics are actually quite similar to classic roguelikes; when you move, enemies move as well. Where Crypt makes this fresh and interesting is in the rhythm mechanic. Each level in a Zone has a specific song playing in the background, and you have to tap the arrows to explore it in the beat of that song. If you manage to keep moving to the correct beat, you'll keep building up a multiplier, granting you more gold per kill.
Combat is then built into the same moving mechanic. Pressing a key towards an enemy allows you to strike it, but this is where the strategy comes in. Each enemy has a different attack pattern, meaning just blindly running up to enemies won't work. Ghosts, for example, need you to turn away from them so they materialize, which then allows you to do damage. Monkeys need to be dealt with before they can reach you since they'll climb on your head and immobilize you, granting other monsters free hits. The variety is really surprising.
And that brings me to the bosses. Oh man, do I ever love boss encounters in this game. As I've only progressed through the first Zone, so far, I can only speak for those bosses. The Minotaur boss, for example, requires you to lure it so it continues running toward you. Moving out of its way causes it to keep running until it hits a wall and stuns itself for a few turns. The final boss of Zone 1 is no pushover either. Since he has a shield, frontal attacks won't do you any good. You'll have to use tactics, and the fact that your movement ratio to his is 3:1, to get behind him to score a hit.
And oh man, that music. It's so damn catchy. I can't say it's memorable in a way where I can hum the level 1 song from memory, like I could for Shovel Knight, but it fits the game perfectly. Headphones strongly recommended. And what do you know, you can actually buy the soundtrack as well.
The other character which I've unlocked so far, Bard, completely switches up the style of gameplay, as he no longer relies on using the beat, but rather plays out like a standard roguelike. Everytime he makes a move, the enemy makes a move. I've actually found that using him makes progressing through the game slightly easier, since you can move as fast or slow as you want. Since enemies don't move when you're standing still, you can better survey each room. However, playing as Bard completely ruins the point of Crypt of the NecroDancer, so I highly suggest you stick to playing as Cadence, though I'm really curious what the other character's mechanics are.
Lastly, you can even use your own custom music for each level, as the game has a built in BPM (beats per minute) calculator. Admittedly, being addicted to Persona 4 Golden at the moment, I've tried adding a few songs from there into Crypt, and surprisingly, it worked great! You can check out the footage below featuring Reach Out To The Truth from Persona 4.
Make sure to stay tuned for more gameplay clips from Crypt of the NecroDancer, and of course, a final review once the game is completely out of Early Access.