Do you remember when dance mats were all the rage? Nope, neither do we – but if you were one of the few that picked one of these gizmos up back in the late 90s then you may be in luck with new title Crypt of the NecroDancer: it has full dance mat compatibility – although a DualShock 4 works just as well. But is this the right game to bring the dormant peripheral back from its long forgotten grave?
This is a cross between a rhythm title and a rouguelike: it's a randomly generated dungeon crawler based entirely on your ability to hit beats and complete feats. The game plays much like you'd expect: you're placed in a dungeon that's full of chests to loot, items to collect, and enemies to defeat – but there's one big twist.
At the bottom of the screen is a heart which is beating in time to the music, and in order to perform any action in the game you need to correspond your inputs with the tempo. Although it may sound difficult, it comes quite naturally – well, most of the time, anyway. Of course, it's not just you who can move on the beat – enemies also jiggle forward, so it's crucial that you use every beat, otherwise you'll swiftly be surrounded.
The 16-bit style adventure is split into zones, each with different themes: mines, mushroom swamps, and so on. Each of these is randomly generated so that it's different every time that you play. But you'll still face serious resistance from a variety of enemies: bats, dragons, monkeys, skeletons, slime, and more which will all test your timing. All of these foes demand different tactics, which can be tough to execute when there are many beasts to deal with at once. Fortunately, you'll unlock access to a meaty catalogue of combative options: some have exceptional reach, while others damage multiple targets.
A nice touch is that the whole title can be played co-operatively with a friend, so if your best buddy is free, make sure that you give them a shout, because dancing in the dungeons is a lot more fun with a mate. Or, if you happen to be a dance mat hoarder and have two of the precious pads, whip 'em out and boogie down – it can be a lot of fun.
But there's more to the title than simply sick beats and dangerous dungeons: the lobby includes various vendors that you unlock throughout the campaign, and each has a unique product on offer – from spells and bonus characters to an invaluable training option that allows you to test your tango against all of the enemies in the game. If that's not enough, there are also a ton of modes, including Daily Challenges and more – there's a lot to keep you moving here.
Perhaps the biggest issue, then, is the rhythmic element itself, which offers something fresh but also hinders the experience in a handful of ways. Simple tasks, like movement, become a real struggle, and when paired with the complex enemy types, the game is near impossible at times. The aforementioned training modes help, and there is a character that you can unlock who doesn't have to time his moves – but the title can still be a struggle if you play it the way that it's intended.
Crypt of the NecroDancer offers a groovy twist on traditional rouguelikes, and its sick beats make for some very satisfying dungeon crawling. Although the rhythm-based gameplay can make the basics very difficult to grasp, the title does a good job of teaching you everything that you need to know – and it offers more than enough content to keep you foxtrotting back for more.