Finally, I can take my DDR pad out of storage.
Of all the indie titles at PAX Prime 2013—and I conservatively estimate that there were at least 50 of them there—Crypt of the Necrodancer stole my heart. It's a roguelike, procedurally generated dungeon-crawler that can incorporate a Dance Dance Revolution pad. Just writing that sentence makes every fiber of my being want to turn into undead flesh just to feel closer to this spectacular concept of a game.
A young lass named Cadence decides to search for her father, who has wandered off into the graveyard and has yet to return, but she soon falls into the dungeons below and becomes captured by the NecroDancer himself. In the depths of the crypt, she awakens to find her heart ripped out yet still alive, thus beginning a plot of revenge as she scours the crypt for answers, one beat at a time.
Moving in time with the rhythm of a level's background track is a simple but significant twist. Cadence cannot move a single space or swipe her weapon at any foes unless it's done with the beat, handily indicated by a stream of white bars that collapse on the heart on the bottom of the screen. As Cadence descends lower into a dungeon zone, either by taking the stairs or falling into a pit, the music is usually replaced by another track with a faster beat or, sometimes in the case of some boss rooms, one that has an irregular pace. Luckily, no matter which track plays, it will have an addictive rhythm, courtesy of composer DannyB of Super Meat Boy fame. You can even use your own songs in the soundtrack if you want!
Otherwise, Crypt of the NecroDancer should be familiar to anyone who enjoys retro-styled roguelikes. Cadence must defeat slimes, bats, zombies, and dragons while protecting her own precious lifebar. Opening chests or using dropped gold to purchase items from randomly placed shops strewn throughout the environment will typically have important upgrades, like broadswords that can have a wider range of attack, body armor that shaves off some damage, and torches that increase her visibility range. Better shovels will allow her to dig through tougher walls Minecraft-style. The best weapon, the blunderbuss obtained by beating the first-level boss, has an explosive radius that almost makes you feel sorry for dungeon animals. The developers admit that it's overpowered as all hell, but this is just the demo after all.
Collecting diamonds allow Cadence to purchase permanent upgrades in the regular menu to increase health hearts, item slots, and spells that, despite their long recharge time, are quite powerful. The healing spell gives back a half-heart of life, the fire spell makes ash out of every enemy to Cadence's left and right, and the freeze spell can be a trump card against dragons and bosses. Activating them by hitting a double on the DDR pad is incredible and, as far as I'm concerned, will never get old.
Of course, the best part about Crypt of the NecroDancer is that you'll work up a sweat if you have a DDR, In The Groove, or other RedOctane pad. Given that the game is still in its early development phase, there are no plans to bundle it with a pad of any kind, but I told them that a limited premium version with one would be purchased in a hearbeat. The developers of Brace Yourself Games hope to release the title on Steam in November/December 2013. But for now, you can support the title by pre-ordering the game off its official website.