According to developers ‘Tikipod’… “Iron Crypticle is inspired by arcade classics such as Smash TV – deepened by item collection systems akin to Bubble Bobble / Rainbow Islands – and all placed in a Ghosts and Goblins / Gauntlet style medieval setting!” …and as far as self assessments go, they are absolutely spot on.
Iron Crypticle is a rogue lite, twin stick shooter, with gameplay that feels exactly like the original Smash TV. However instead of playing as a game show contestant, you play as a medieval knight. The king you serve has had his gold stolen and daughter kidnapped by a mysterious creature. You chase this creature into a sequence of dungeons and the fun begins.
Although Iron Crypticle does a fantastic job in borrowing elements from other classic games, this actually leads to my only criticism of it. This game does suffer from a lack of originality and doesn’t offer a single new idea. Originality aside, everything Iron Crypticle does do is done well. The gameplay here is exciting, frantic and can get quite addictive.
Each stage takes place across a network of rooms, and with each one you enter you have to kill all of the monsters inside before you are allowed to proceed to the next. None of the monsters you encounter are ever difficult to kill individually, but you have to be careful not to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of them.
As you defeat enemies, open chests and break crates, all kind of items flood the stage for you to collect. A lot of these items such as food and gold will add to your score, however you can also find a range of fantastic weapons that last for a limited time, stat increases, magic scrolls, maps, money to buy upgrades and bonus items. There is so much to collect, and as you get better you’ll unlock more pickups which are added to the item pool.
A lot of design decisions have been made to ensure that this game remains fast paced. Not only are you bombarded with waves of enemies, but you only have a limited amount of time in each room before guardians spawn in to give you a hard time. To make matters worse the items that drop on the floor fade away pretty quickly, so if you see something you really want be sure to dash to it before it’s gone.
This is quite a challenging game, and although it seems more doable than similar games in this genre such as ‘Enter the Gungeon’ or ‘Binding of Isaac’, I’m still struggling to beat it. Like Gungeon, I began playing thinking that I’d beat it with no issue, but by the time you get to the second or third level the difficulty spike begins to creep up on you. I’ve had this game for a little under a week and still haven’t beat the third stage yet. Since I’m assuming there are probably around 5 or 6 stages in total I clearly have my work cut out for me. If (like me) you are struggling to reach this game’s conclusion, there are three difficulty options to choose from. These seem to effect enemy AI and I noticed that the bosses have different attacks depending on which mode you select.
After beating a couple of stages you unlock an ‘endless’ mode. Endless mode takes place in a single room with wave upon waves of enemies spawning in. Just like the main game there are plenty of powers ups and stat improvements to pick up which help to keep things interesting. Endless mode has a bigger focus on action and contains far fewer interruptions to the combat than the regular mode has. Both the regular and endless mode support single and local co-op for up to 4 players.
The controls are really straight forward. Left stick moves, Right stick shoots, ‘L1’ is a special attack that kills all nearby enemies (limited use only), ‘R1’ dashes (can be used infinitely, although needs a few seconds to charge between uses) and ‘X’ will activate a magic scroll (providing you’ve picked one up). For me, these controls feel perfect. The movement is instantly responsive and buttery smooth. My only nitpick doesn’t revolve around the main game, but there are some optional bonus rounds where you can play a platforming style mini game, and I personally prefer playing platform games with the D-pad rather than with analogue sticks.
When it comes to graphics, most retro throwback games tend to favour an 8-bit look. However, on this occasion Tikipod have chosen a very faithful 16-bit style. As such, all of the sprite work has a higher level of detail than most retro style games. To add to the authenticity, even the font chosen for the in game text matches that of the one used in Capcom’s Ghosts and Goblins. Being a dungeon crawler, Iron Crypticle does have a bit of a drab colour scheme with stages built up from earthy and stony tones. Having said that, the various power-up, collectables and projectiles that clutter the screen do help add a splash of colour to the mix.
The music and sound effects are certainly serviceable, however when compared to all the other elements such as the wonderful game play and nostalgic graphics, it would have been nice for there to be a more memorable soundtrack to match. The sound effect also seem a little out of place. For example, the grunts that players make when they get hit have quite a serious tone to them and remind me a little of Golden Axe. Given that this game has more of a fun / fantasy sort of tone, I think the developers could have got away with some more upbeat arcade sound effects.
I really do like this game. From an objective perspective, it’s a run of the mill retro style game that borrows heavily from other titles, with little to no original ideas of its own. Having said that, this doesn’t stop me having an amazing time playing it. It’s fun, challenging, really well made and I highly recommend it. If you enjoy games like Isaac or Gungeon then be sure to check this one out.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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