Welcome to my first review on NSM. Who knows how good it will be, or if I'll ever write another.
Let's start with my most recently beat game, Crypt of the NecroDancer.Crypt of the NecroDancer
For those not familiar with the game, Crypt of the NecroDancer is a rouge-like rhythm dungeon crawler. It is as bizarre as it sounds. But, let's arbitrarily split this review up into sections so I can find everything more easily.Story/presentation
Most of the story is conveyed in large voice-acted pixilated stills with minimal animation. I can't really think of a better way to describe it.
The opening cutscene depicts our heroine, Cadence, digging into a graveyard to find her father. She breaks through the ground, falls, and something
happens. It's never clearly described what, but Cadence soon wakes up in the crypt without a heart, and must press onward to find her missing father. I won't spoil anything, but, over the course of the campaign, you discover that Cadence's father left her and her dying mother in search of something in the crypt to save his wife.
The story as a whole isn't that incredible or compelling, but it's not necessarily bad in any way. It simply serves the purpose of providing context for the action.Gameplay
There is one simple gameplay mechanic that governs every action you take: the beat of the music.
At the bottom of the screen, your heart is shown, with blue bars moving towards it to represent the beat of the song. If you try to move outside of the beat, attempt an invalid action, or just not doing anything will make you lose your coin multiplier in addition to not moving. Why is that a problem? Because each and every enemy moves to the beat. And they never miss it.
Image kindly stolen from Steam
Each enemy has it's own distinctive movement pattern. Green slimes stay in place, while blue slimes hop back and forth between two tiles every 2nd beat. Ghosts move every beat, but only when you are not facing them. And on and on. Each enemy has a distinctive pattern that needs to be memorized before it can be beat easily. You are also able to dig into any of the surrounding walls to spend a beat without moving anywhere.
So that's the basic overview. Now the more complex stuff.
The game is divided into four zones. Each has its own distinctive style, music, and enemies, but each will need to be completed to move on to the next.
You will probably spend the majority of the game attempting to run each zone. Every time, you start with a dagger, a shovel, and a single bomb and are expected to find your way through three randomly generated levels and their minibosses followed by one of four main bosses. It is nowhere as easy as it sounds.
Yet, you do have a lot to help you along the way. There are numerous weapons in quite a few varieties. Some will innately do more damage, while others do damage based on your coin multiplier, while still others heal you after 10 kills. Some I find much easier to use than others, and a few I have rarely found at all. That's the catch in a way. Each weapon is randomly generated along with the level, so you never know what you might find when you open a chest.
I may have forgotten to mention that there are additional equipment like you would expect in any RPG. Bracelets, helms, armor, etc. are all here. Quite a few weapons, items, and spells must be unlocked first by purchasing them with the diamonds you collect in between runs.
I won't spoil everything you find, but there are quite a few surprises that are best discovered on your own.
Finally, the bosses. Each of the main four is crafted around something musical. For example, King Conga is a large gorilla with two long zombie conga lines. The music has every eighth beat removed, and for every mistake you make, King Conga will chase after you before teleporting back to his throne after you hit him. There are a few endgame bosses that can only be accessed by playing as certain characters.
Speaking of different characters, there are a multitude to choose from, each offering their own playstyle. There are three main campaign characters who can only be unlocked by completing zone 4 with the previous character (and are the only ones who give the cutscenes). The others range from Dove, who cannot hurt any enemies, as she is a passifict, to Monk, who instantly dies if he touches gold (but every shop item is free). And of course, there has to be the infamous dies-in-one-hit type character.
There are even other modes, such as trying to complete all the zones in one go, or even a mode that lets you play with a dance pad.
I just have one gripe: the controls. Each and every in game action is performed with the arrow keys. This includes all the spells and items which must be activated by pressing two of the keys at once. It's a pain at first, but it feels natural after a while. I just now noticed that there is key binding for all the combos, if that is something you want. The Soundtrack
It's composed by Danny Baranowsky, composer for Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac.
Need I say more?
Yes. I do.
The shopkeeper sings whenever you get near him.
In addition to this excellent soundtrack, there are two additional covers of the entire soundtrack in the game: one metal, and the other sort of a electronic dance pop, for lack of a better phrase. Each one is the default for a different one of the three main characters, but they can be freely set for whatever character you like. In addition, you can import custom music for any stage or boss battle you like and it will automatically calculate the beat for it. I would like to make a note, however, that using custom music will turn off your ability to get achievements, as it lets you adjust the length of each song as much as you want. Just throwing that out there.Other thoughts
Mod support is available, with some excellent character skins that also change the voice acting. Like the Shulk mod
which makes most nonverbal character noises into Shulk quotes in addition to changing most weapons into Monados. Another large mod of note, is the Mega Man total conversion
. Every enemy, every weapon, and every song is changed into something from the megaman universe. There are smaller mod packs that let you play as Quote, Captain Viridian, or even Blaise Debeste. Each mod is easily activated from an in game menu and can be turned off and on quite quickly. I would also like to note that these mods, like custom music, will break the achievement system and render you unable to achieve anything.Closing Thoughts
If you couldn't tell already, I absolutely adore this game. Yet there is one thing stopping me from recommending it to everyone.
Would you like to know how hard it is?
6% of the people who own the game have beaten zone 4 as Cadence, the default character.
It's that hard (That number is comparable to the amount of people who have beaten Dark Souls)
This game is not afraid to punish every mistake you make, and you will make many. But, it's always fair. You
died because you didn't correctly react to the enemy patterns. You
let yourself get swarmed with monsters, panicked, and stepped on spikes. But I still love it.Final Score
I absolutely love this game, but it's not for everybody.
The fact that achievements can be prevented so easily is a pain, but understandable
And the controls, while good after some time, take a bit to get used to.
Additionally, with the introduction of Steam refunds, you can easily try the game to see if you like it or hate it.
So, how was my first review? Did I miss anything? Make terrible typos because I didn't proofread it?