Remaking the little known but well-received PC title Iron Fisticle – yes, that name is hilarious – Tikipod’s charming medieval twin-stick shooter Iron Crypticle sees you and up to three other co-op partners attempting to rescue the princess of Cryptonia and the kingdom's riches. Naturally, there's a maze of dungeons to navigate and a horde of monsters to slay before you can reach your goal and claim the prize.
A marriage of Robotron and Gauntlet – with a little Ghouls 'n Ghosts on the side – rose-tinted memories are the game's biggest asset. The lovingly crafted pixel art is an aesthetic choice that assured the success of Yacht Club Games’ now beloved Shovel Knight. But where that game felt genuinely like a product of another time, Iron Crypticle feels like pastiche with a modern control scheme.
The gameplay is solid and will be both familiar to newcomers and second nature to anyone that played dungeon crawlers back in the day. Your noble knight navigates a randomly generated maze of rooms, fighting off a selection of enemy types and picking up treasure, precious copper coins, and a banquet of foodstuffs along the way. Enemies funnel towards you, with turret variants and room filling environmental hazards scattered about some levels. The reward for room completion is a glimpse of the map, allowing you to manoeuvre into arcade rooms to spend copper coinage on a fun side scrolling version of the game. There's also a shop with an amusing clerk, but seldom is there reason to use it thanks to the game's perma-death mechanic.
Weapon types add variation to the combat: rapid-fire daggers, axes, hammers that ricochet off walls, and flamethrowers are the order of the day. There’s a handy dash move that can be used for quick navigation and blitzing enemies to get out of a tight spot. Your last resort ability is a massive ground slam (aptly titled "atomic fist") that devastates all enemies in the immediate vicinity, but it’s a rare commodity so needs to be used wisely.
Rooms come in several different flavors: some throw one particular enemy at you, while others contain traps and bosses. Each stage is also a race against the clock that demands a hasty retreat as tougher enemies spawn in to punish tardy adventurers. Timed golems aside, even regular enemies hit like a truck, so expect to be sent right back to the start of the game at a moment's notice, with nothing to show for your efforts. There's a generous variety of difficulty levels, but ultimately the grim spectre of Game Over looms large.
A rudimentary levelling system beefs your HP as you progress and picking up food increases movement speed. As with most twin-stick shooters, it can be exhilarating when you're on a roll, but losing all progress on death always leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
A fun throwback to a number of different beloved titles, Iron Crypticle is fun in short bursts and can be a blast with friends. Yet, aside from the charm of the 8-bit visuals, there isn’t an enormous amount here to keep you dungeon running once the initial novelty wears thin.