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Review: Crypt of the NecroDancer (PS4, PS Vita) Dance until you're dead

What a peculiar little game Crypt of the NecroDancer turned out to be. That’s not a dig at the game or its developer, Brace Yourself Games, but more an exclamation of surprise. See, I’m quite into rhythm games, but I’m not really into old-school style dungeon crawlers. What’s odd is that Crypt of the NecroDancer is a blend of the two; you tackle the dungeons and its inhabitants by moving in time to the beat.

Across the bottom of the screen is a heart, and to each side of it are rapidly approaching lines. The idea is that you tap the button/move the directional pad in time with the lines hitting the heart. Following? It sounds simple, but it’s honestly not – at least not at first. It took me a while to get to grips with it on the PS Vita, but on the TV and the PS4 I actually started to fare a little better. Whether that’s due to the TV offering a bigger viewing area, I’m not too sure.

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The game is presented via a top-down old-school dungeon crawler – a little bit like the old Legend of Zelda games for the SNES (and no, I wasn’t a fan of them. Sue me.). It might seem like an odd mashup of two very different genres, but surprisingly, it’s bloody brilliant! I honestly didn’t expect it to draw me in the way that it did, but once I’d gotten used to using my ears as much as my eyes, it became quite a decent game to play, even if I still can’t shake the feeling that it’s a little bit… weird.

Movement is all done via the directional pad on the PS Vita/PS4 (I played roughly half the game on one, and half on the other), thought it has to be done to the beat. What’s pretty neat is that visual cues accompany the audio ones, making it just a bit more immersive of an experience. The ground upon which you walk lights up in different squares, effectively turning the dank and dirty dungeons into disco-tastic dance floors. Groovy, baby!

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Enemies are dealt with by moving into them at the right time and at the right point of attack. Some enemies will only take damage from behind, some will only take damage from the front, and some will take damage from wherever. Enemies, too, move to the sound of the funky beat, so entering into a situation isn’t simply a case of moving straight towards the enemy and separating their heads from their shoulders. No, each situation is a puzzle in itself that requires a bit of patience and forethought, though not too much as you’re always against the clock. Oh, did I not mention that? Yeah, being that Crypt of the NecroDancer is a rogue-like-dance-mat-sort-of-RPG-with-dungeon-crawling-elements kind of game, it makes sense that another layer of difficulty should be added to the mix. Why not, just about everything else has… So, really, it’s mixing three genres together, not just two.

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It works, though, so I can’t complain. Each death is a lesson that serves a purpose, or so I told myself until the 50th death, after which it just became another part of the game. Don’t take that the wrong way, mind, as you’re supposed to die. Lots. However, despite dying a million times, I can’t really say much bad about Crypt of the NecroDancer. Perhaps the learning curve is a bit steep and the music won’t be to everyone’s taste, but other than that, I honestly can’t find a fault with the game; it does exactly as it sets out to do.

As I said, it’s not the most demanding of games but the art direction of the game works well enough with what the game aims to achieve. It’s a nice throwback to the gaming years gone by, and although the 16-bit retro craze has sort of become quite tiresome as of late, Crypt of the NecroDancer actually doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be a retro style game.

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It’s a fun little game that certainly does seem to be aimed at a very, very niche crowd, but I’d highly suggest anyone with an open mind and a love of music to give this genre-mashing outing a look at. It’s not going to be the most demanding game your PS4/PS Vita will run, but it could be one of the more enjoyable ones, especially with that funky soundtrack. Seriously, I only listen to The Killers, yet I still find myself humming the chirpy little tunes on the ride to work in the morning; they’re some seriously funky tunes. Obviously it’s not going to be the soundtrack for everyone, but what the game does deliver to your ears does make sense in the context of the game. Upbeat melodies will see you through some fierce battles while thumping electro beats will make every boss battle memorable for a very different reason. For a game that relies on music so heavily, I think Crypt of the NecroDancer’s music guy/gal deserves a pat on the back, and maybe even a round of drinks.

Disclaimer: This review was conducted using codes provided by the game’s developer. This does not impact the score in any way. For more information, please check out our Review Policy