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PAX East Preview: Crypt of the NecroDancer

April 16, 2014 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook PAX East Preview: Crypt of the NecroDanceron Twitter

While there were many games presented on the PAX East 2014 show floor, there were only a handful that featured music as their central gameplay mechanic. Since OSV is a site which focuses on game music, we thought it would be nice to give some previews of games that featured music as their core element. The first of these is a game titled Crypt of the NecroDancer.

For those of you have not heard of it, Crypt of the NecroDancer is a roguelike dungeon crawler, created by Brace Yourself Games, that requires you to time your movements and attacks to the game’s soundtrack. Your movement, attacks, and other abilities are all triggered with the four direction buttons. In order to successfully move, attack, or use an ability, you need to enter the command on the beat. A beat meter on the bottom of the screen helps indicate when you can take action. When I spoke with the developers at the show, they emphasized that they wanted to make a rogelike that relied a little more heavily on player skill, rather than luck of what the dungeon will throw at you on a particular run. Theoretically, if you have good rhythm and timing, you can make it through most situations in one piece.

Because the game only needs you to use the four directions to control the game, there is control support for using a DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) pad to play the game. This was something intended by the developers, and sure enough, they had a set of Crypt of the NecroDancer dance pads at PAX East, to play the game on. I of course had to try out this control method. Now I have to confess that I am absolutely terrible at DDR. You would think that being both a musician and a martial artist, I would have no issue coordinating my feet and legs to the rhythmic requirements of any DDR controlled game. This is sadly not the case, but it guarantees that hilarity will ensue.

My playthrough of the game started me off in a tutorial. Despite my lack of foot-eye-coordination, I was able to go through and successfully fight off some minor enemies. The enemies also move to the beat of the music, in simple and predictable patterns (More powerful foes have more complex movement patterns). You not only need to time your attacks to the beat, you need to make sure it’s a beat when the enemy will be on the space you plan on attacking. You can also pick up items and currency by walking over them. In this run, I was able to grab a larger weapon that would hit allowed me to strike three squares adjacent to my character. There were also some abilities that I was able to use. To heal, for example, I needed to hold down left and up on the dance pad. After clearing the tutorial I started an actual level of the game. I surprisingly managed to kill one of the bosses in the level, but I immediately died afterward. Even with my terrible dance pad skills, I found the controls surprisingly intuitive. I can only imagine what a skilled DDR player would be able to accomplish in this game.

The music is one of the highlights of this game. The music for Crypt of the NecroDancer is all being written by Danny Baranowsky, who you may know from his soundtracks for Super Meat Boy and Desktop Dungeons. For this game, it’s one of the most important elements and, from what I experienced, it’s already shaping up to be a great soundtrack. Now if Baranowsky’s music doesn’t get you in the dancing, dungeon crawling mood, you can import your own MP3s and songs into the game. The beat meter will adjust to the tempo of whatever music you use. I can see this as being a potential tool for speed runners, but I’m going to guess that at faster tempos the beat meter will start counting every other beat. It’s a nice feature that will definitely add to the replay value of the game.

After playing through the Crypt of the NecroDancer, I can honestly say that my interest in this game has increased. While I may not be a proficient player, the game has some engaging gameplay elements that feel fresh and interesting. Crypt of the NecroDancer is a new take on the roguelike genre and I’ll be looking forward to it when it comes out. As of this writing, there is no official release date for the game. It is planned for release sometime later this year and will be playable on PC, Mac, Linux, and Steam. Definitely keep an eye out for this one.

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