Video games have been mixing genres and combining gameplay mechanics since the 8-bit era. The rising popularity of indie games has given us lots of interesting and unique crossovers and blurred the lines between genres. That being said, there is still a lot of uncharted territory when it comes to discovering the synergy between different mechanics. A fine example of previously unknown synergy is Crypt of the Necrodancer. When a game is described as a roguelike dungeon-crawler rhythm game, it might seem like a bunch of gaming buzz words thrown into a blender. The result however, is one of the most original and fun video game experience in quite a while.

Crypt of the Necrodancer follows Cadence, a young girl that is killed while exploring a mysterious cave she was warned not to enter. She’s later found and revived by the titular Necrodancer by reasons unknown to her, and feels her heart thumping to a strange beat despite being dead. As you progress through the game the story is pieced together by Cadence’s narration, along with cutscenes composed of still images. The character portraits, enemy portraits and cutscene artwork is all very well done. The unique art style makes even generic enemies like skeletons and ghosts look and feel more original than they have in years. As you progress through the game’s story mode you’ll be introduced to other playable characters, each with their own playstyles and soundtracks. You’re also given the option of switching back to Cadence or any other character whenever you want, so you’re never forced to play as a character whose playstyle you don’t enjoy.

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Just like most other dungeon crawlers, this game will have you exploring randomly generated dungeons and fighting bosses when you reach the end. You’ll also find numerous weapons and items that can only be used while you’re in the current dungeon. Here’s the catch: you can only move and attack to the rhythm of the music. The enemies are also bound by this rule, so a large element here is learning the movement and attack patterns of enemies. It may seem restricting, especially in a game where exploration is key, and some players may want to explore at their own pace, but the mechanic ends up making every second of the game feel very fun and involved.

This is due in part to the game’s fantastic soundtracks. The music in this game spans many different genres and tempos, so you’ll be constantly kept on your toes. Necrodancer even lets you change soundtracks at any point, as well as import your own music if you’re enjoying what the game offers. Being able to import your own music into any level or boss fight you wish adds infinite ways to play the game. Every song you thought would be perfect for a video game can now be in the game and affect how you play. It should be said, however, that even after dying multiple times and listening to the same songs for hours on end, they never got boring.

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For those that don’t want to be tied down to a time signature there are characters in the game that don’t need to abide by the music and can move and attack as they please. This begs the question though--is this game still as good without the rhythm game gimmick? The answer is yes. Every dungeon is fun to explore and learning how to efficiently dispose of a room full of enemies is extremely satisfying once you learn their patterns. For players that are musically challenged, there’s a meter at the bottom of the screen to keep time for you. Some characters don’t have this meter though, and that’s where a lot of the variety and replayability comes in.

There are ten different characters to choose from, and they all have to be unlocked by finding the golden keys in the different dungeons and setting them free. Each plays drastically different from the others; for example Eli can only use bombs but he has an infinite number at his disposal. Despite being rather challenging, the game never feels unfair since you’re given plenty of time to observe enemies, learn each song’s tempo and gather items to prepare for said enemies. You’re even given the chance to practice fighting any of the enemies you’ve encountered by visiting the beastmaster in the game’s lobby.

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Crypt of the Necrodancer nails everything that it sets out to do. Every moment of Necrodancer is fun and engaging, the music is some of the best original music in any rhythm game, and the entire experience feels very original. The varying levels of difficulty, in addition to the speedrun clock, daily challenge dungeons and leaderboards give this game a surprising amount of depth and longevity. Players who like dungeon crawlers, music or excellent games will find themselves entranced by Crypt of the Necrodancer.

This review is based on a download code of Crypt of the Necrodancer provided by the publisher for PC.