Rhythm is a roguelike in Crypt of the NecroDancer

I have a good handle on rhythm. I’m not exactly Dancing With The Stars material, but I like to think I can hold my own whenever grooves require busting, or even on the lower difficulty levels of Rock Band, Guitar Hero et al. And then a NecroDancer struts into view and I’m flummoxed all over again.

Crypt of the NecroDancer is a roguelike: you wander about randomly generated dungeons, exploring and hitting things with an array of weapons, all the while delving deeper into a dungeon chock-full of nasty things that mean you harm. But it’s also a rhythm game, which is about where things get awesome. The enemies move in predictable patterns, but you can only move and attack them by tapping your keyboard, gamepad, or DDR pad (if you’ve got one lying around) in time with the beat.

Vanquish an enemy and you'll earn a combat bonus—signified by the glowing floor tile patterns—that lasts until you act off-beat.

I’ve spent some time with a preview build and it’s frustrating in all the best ways—simply hopping around in time with the music is cause for celebration, to say nothing of wading through baddies as the labyrinth starts to glow like some undead discotheque. When the game is released you’ll be able to play with your own music collection; I defy you to find a more harmonious gaming experience than thwacking at attack monkeys while Bill Withers croons in the background.

While this is all well and good, I don’t buy the game’s cover story for a second. Sure, it may look like a crypt full of shambling skeletons and slimes and the occasional dragon (!). But all I see is the living-impaired whiling away the afterlife, getting down to phat beats and certainly not deserving of my reckless assaults. We’ll find out what the real story is eventually—the game isn’t available yet (boo!) but you can pre-order it (at a 10% discount) and get a Steam key when it launches on PC and Mac later this year. Here’s a trailer, while we wait.

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