It was my third and final day at TGS. My feet were aching, my legs were shaking, and my head was throbbing. It was a good day to hit the small stuff, as even the least crowded of the big gaming areas had suddenly gained ninety-minute lines. I was about to call it a day when I remembered that I hadn't checked out the family zone or the indie corner nearby. it was a good thing I remembered, or I'd have missed out on a new highlight of my TGS 2013 experience: Crypt of the NecroDancer.
Mr. Ryan Clark — founder, lead designer, and programmer for Brace Yourself Games — was on-hand to give me some background. Since childhood, he was a fan of Rogue and the sub-genre of games it had spawned. However, he wasn't always happy with the random factor or difficulty that had become hallmarks of the roguelike genre. In his attempt to make a faster-paced, fun roguelike of his own, the rhythmic tap-tap-tap of fingers on buttons led to inspiration. Thus we have Crypt of the NecroDancer, perhaps the world's first beat-rhythm roguelike.
The version of the game at TGS was technically the pre-alpha, but you could have fooled me. In every way it was a well-polished demo that showed what the game had to offer. There were four planned levels, including an epic "conga line" level, each featuring a different theme song. The full game will let the player load up ay tune, syncing the beat rhythm to the music. Appropriately enough, Ryan said that the first song ever used with this game was Michael Jackson's "Thriller."
The only controls I needed were the four arrow keys, though the game can also be played with a game controller or even a DDR pad. The heroine could only move to the beat, so regular tapping was important. Attacking is as simple as moving right at the target monster. Every weapon has a different range, with some hitting at a distance or sweeping through sideways. A variety of weapons were available in the demo, including several types of blades, a whip, a spear, and a shotgun.
As more enemies went down, the Groove Chain went up. As long as I didn't drop a beat or take a hit, I was raking in the gold bonuses. This was useful, as the various shops found within the dungeon could get pricey. Items and spells were keyed to certain combinations of the arrow keys, and were suprisingly easy to use, even in a pinch. Once I found a shovel, I could dig out sections of wall to find more treasure and monsters. I also discovered what the blade traps looked like, the hard way.
Crypt of the NecroDancer will hopefully be available sometime later this year or early next year. Ryan says he plans to offer the game directly as well as over Steam, and his website's already taking pre-orders.
He's definitely got my attention with this one, and probably my money, too.