Crypt of the NecroDancer

Game review by
Jeff Haynes, Common Sense Media
Crypt of the NecroDancer Game Poster Image
Rhythm's gonna get you in this challenging, fun game.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Searching, saving loved ones lessened by constant combat against hordes of creatures.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main character, Cadence, trying to fight evil on her own, find her lost father, save the world. She's courageous, fearless but brash.

Ease of Play

Simple controls; easy to learn but hard to master. Limited instructions, difficulty spikes, trial-and-error gameplay, rhythmic play can frustrate gamers.

Violence

Players use blades, projectiles, bombs, magic to eliminate monsters. Though fighting is constant, no blood or gore and pixelated graphics lessen impact. Monsters disappear when killed.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Crypt of the NecroDancer is a downloadable rogue-like adventure title, where players fight their way through randomly generated dungeons against hordes of monsters, requiring strategy to survive. It adds a new twist to the rogue-like formula by using the rhythm of the soundtrack to provide in-game bonuses. The visual design is a callback to classic games that focused on skillful play, providing a challenge with every step. Though the basics are easy to learn, the game is very hard to master; the spikes in difficulty and trial-and-error mechanics can frustrate even the most dedicated player. Combat is a constant element during the adventure, with magic, bombs, and melee and projectile weapons used to destroy monsters. But there's no blood or gore, and the 2-D pixelated graphics limit the impact of battle significantly.

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What's it about?

CRYPT OF THE NECRODANCER tells the story of Cadence, a young girl in search of her father, who disappeared in search of a mystical item reportedly lost inside the evil tomb. Dismissing the warnings from her family, Cadence heads to the graveyard, armed with little more than a shovel and a dagger. Unfortunately, the ground opens up under her feet, and she falls, hitting her head on a rock. As Cadence is unconscious, the Necrodancer appears and steals her heart, forcing her to move to the music of its realm. To save herself and her father, Cadence will have to fight through the Necrodancer's minions, gathering equipment and freeing trapped people to help her in her quest. Local multiplayer, custom soundtracks, moddable content, and lots of unlockables round out the adventure.

Is it any good?

As with other rogue-likes, Crypt of the NecroDancer is a fun yet incredibly challenging game where players will fight seemingly impossible odds. You'll need to use strategy to fight off each monster, avoid traps, and use all your gear and abilities to make some headway. You'll die -- frequently -- because of the hordes you'll face on each level. But the major wrinkle here is the rhythm mechanic, which governs the movement of monsters and your bonuses. If you strike in time, you can build up a combo, performing additional damage and getting extra gold from each kill. Get off the rhythm, and you may find yourself quickly surrounded and destroyed. This forces you to keep moving to keep time, breathing new life into a genre whose primary calling card is incredibly difficult gameplay. Plus, including customizable soundtracks boosts the challenge based on the track you use; faster-paced tracks could literally burn your keyboard (and nerves) to ashes!

But two issues hold NecroDancer from becoming an instant classic. First, the game runs out of unlockable items way too early. Some randomly generated levels produce far too many tradable gems that can be redeemed at shops. Once you've cleared the shelves (which can be done in a few short hours), the gem mechanic becomes a meaningless feature that you never have to collect or focus on again. The more serious flaw is the automatic reset of your character after the successful completion of a stage. Rogue-likes are supposed to reward your work with the maintenance of your progress, especially after you defeat a boss. In NecroDancer, you immediately start back at Square One for the next area you fight your way through, which is inevitably harder than the last. It can be really dismaying to have a powerful gear just to watch it be stripped away, leaving you to face monsters such as a dragon with only a dagger. These issues aside, Crypt of the NecroDancer makes music the star of a challenging genre, which many players should check out to test their skills.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the impact of violence in media. Does the lack of blood and disappearing monsters limit the impact of the violence in Crypt of the NecroDancer? Can you play and fight your way through these games without either of these affecting you?

  • Talk about music and rhythm. How does music affect you in your life? Can you explain why some pieces can motivate you and others can make you sad or introspective or can calm you down?

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