Iron Crypticle is a Rogue-like twin stick shooter glazed with a topping of character upgrade mechanics as found in rpgs. Permadeath is ruthless since taking too many hits will force you back to the start of the game.
Food for Comfort
The opening cinematic of Iron Crypticle shows a king sat on his throne surrounded by his daughter/princess/wife and four warrior guards. In front of them lies a pile of treasure which oddly enough look like golden eatables. A sight sure to whet the appetites of Smaug or any other treasure eating monster. Luckily for the king and his trusted guards there is no such threat. Enjoying the peaceful times, they sit comfortably in the throne room, growing less vigilant with every passing second.
It’s only when the tasty treasures vanish through a sinkhole that I, as one of the four guards, spring quite literally into action. With a leap of faith, warrior number one dives feet first into the hole that swallowed the treasures whole. After a short loading screen I can begin my bullet hell journey through the levels of Iron Crypticle.
The first room I find myself in has floor tiles presenting me with the straightforward control scheme I’ll be working with. Iron Crypticle employs a typical top down view. Character movement is handled by the left stick, and tilting the right stick will fire your weapon in that direction. Scrolls (incantations with varying effects) of which only one at a time can be held, are of singular use and mapped to X. R1 is used to for the dash ability which can be used unlimited times but with a cooldown between uses. The “Atomic fist”, a powerful blast that evaporates all enemies and incoming bullets within a decent radius is bound to L1. After using the Atomic Fist this power needs to be replenished, either by buying it from a shop or finding it as a pickup. The touchpad gives access to the floor map and shows the different rooms I have to progress through before I can face off with the floor’s guardian/boss, all so I can ultimately reach the stolen riches.
On each floor three types of rooms can be found. Rooms where monsters spawn are the most common. However, due to the randomisation of the room locations, I can never be sure which enemies I’ll encounter next. That’s unless I find a map giving me some insight into room contents. It doesn’t matter much since they all have to be dealt with before a room’s exit can be used. A great deal of the fun and challenge Iron Crypticle poses, is in the manner enemies are disposed off while trying to tally up a hefty score.
The pause menu holds a handy ledger that explains the effects of the many pickups found throughout the game. Early on, I picked up loads of books, holding one sentence tips, to help me push further through.
Killing off the monsters will, randomly, make them drop edibles. The wide variety of sweet and savoury foods (fruits, sausages, cheese, bread rolls etc.) grant a variable amount of points, adding to my high score. Additionally, picking up the chow in quick succession, and without taking damage will start a bonus modifier. A big part of the challenge comes from having to dodge incoming projectiles and the monsters themselves while getting to the food drops before they vanish. Obviously, the higher the bonus modifier (up until a maximum of plus ten) the more points go towards my score. In my experience, a bigger bonus warrants better weapons (and other more useful, permanent powers-ups) to drop. This system leads to some frantic moments where I kill off as many ghouls and strange monsters as I can, bobbing and weaving around waves of spawning enemies only to get my snack on.
Then there are up to five Runes to be collected. Together these stone tiles spell out the word BONUS, and upon picking up the final letter all remaining enemies in a room make way for even more items, resulting in the ultimate scoff run since these snacks won’t stay fresh forever. As with all things in Iron Crypticle, time is of the essence; take too long to rid a room of enemies and tougher invulnerable enemies spawn to hunt you down.
It’s only after ridding a room of its monsters that the exits become usable, each leading to a different room. Ultimately the choice of which exit to take was informed by the status of my warrior. Do I dare to fight in the half lit confines of the graveyard, or will I travel to a room where I know no enemies wait?
My favourite room, the arcade, offers a welcome change from the bullet hell that monster rooms can become. For the price of ten coins, Castle Crushers, a side scrolling platformer, can be played. The premise is as simple as it is effective; outrun a pillar of grinding death stones while collecting as many coins and treats as possible. The platform action in Castle Crushers feels quite satisfying with a nice weight to the character’s jump, and evading genre-typical hazards like lava pits and spikes. Reaching the end of the level is not a hard task, and allows collecting more points, cakes and coins.
Shop ‘til You Drop
The king’s pet cat followed us through the tunnel, not only to help out but it seems he saw a business opportunity. I found him behind the till in one of the “shop rooms”. A perfect place to spend hard earned coins on a random selection of every pickup that can be found throughout the game. Items that permanently upgrade my warrior’s stats; the duration that weapons last for, the amount of damage weapons deliver, and character movement speed are my favourites since they make the rooms ahead easier to beat.
Iron Crypticle runs great on the PS4, and the only time I encountered a “problem” with the game was in a very specific situation during local co-op. When I bought an extra credit to bring back my partner I expected her to be able to spend the remainder of her coin purse in the store. Even though she had enough coins to spare on an available damage upgrade, our cat friend wouldn’t let her purrrchase it. Supposedly she did “not have enough coins in her purrrrse”. Mate, can you check the card again? Both of us died a few rooms later while we were still on floor two, so it was hardly a tragedy, but it happened none the less.
Local multiplayer makes Iron Crypticle an easier experience. Clearing rooms back to back and saving my co-op partner is fun but your friend can also make it harder by stealing away a much needed item. Luckily for my fellow warrior, friendly fire is turned off since I’m shooting at everything that moves. There are three difficulty settings to test your skills on with up to three other local players, (or via Share Play on PSN) and an additional endless mode can be unlocked. One room and endless waves of spawning enemies.
Ultimately, the systems in Iron Crypticle work together to provide a very satisfying game loop. Normally I am not the biggest fan of highscore chases, but luckily this game’s monsters offer plenty of challenge in their own right. Even on easy difficulty the game is no cake walk, but with the addition of local co-op it earned its permanent seat on my PS4 hard drive. Fans of the Rogue-like and/or twin stick shooter genres will find plenty to like in this game, especially if fond of 16-bit Amiga style graphics and chip-tune soundtracks.
Fabian Rating – 7/10
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