You have awoken in a dark cave with nothing but the recollections of your personal being and the uneasy feeling of horrors around you. ‘What’s that noise?’ Oh, it is just the deep, dark voice of the narrator. Wait, a narrator? What peculiar situation have I gotten myself into? Oh great, there are monsters and ghosts in here too. This is going to be a wild ride!
Crawl is an 8-bit top-down dungeon crawler developed and published by the cool guys at Powerhoof. It tells a story of a mysterious fellow that awakes without any idea how he got into this strange place. While proceeding through the first room, the roar of booming voices and screams echoed throughout the corridor. At the end of the hallway, the protagonist is set to face a myriad of creepy creatures ready to pluck him right out of existence. Your hero dies in battle, is that the end of the game? Wow, that was short! Oh never mind, it is just teaching us the new concept of the game.
Crawl is unique to the dungeon crawler genre as the selection screen tasks you with picking your hero, naming them, then picking the monsters that best fit your fancy. The game starts with you (and up to three friends or bots) in a room and creates a battle royal fight scene where you try to be the last one standing. The winner of the fight becomes the first protagonist while everyone else takes control of some different colored specters that only have one goal: destroy the human and take their humanity.
The job of the human is average for most dungeon crawlers. Go from room to room killing enemies, getting gold, leveling up, and occasionally stopping at the local shop to get some nice weapons or charms. The shopkeeper must be booming with business! Like one adventurer every once and a while. Great business plan! Sorry for the tangent, back to my business. The main goal is to get to level ten or higher and find the portals scattered around the floor. Once you hit level ten and find the portal, you can be transported to a boss stage where you must, get this, KILL THE BOSS. I know right, I was surprised too. If you fail the boss fight the first time, you are teleported back to the portal with minimal health and must travel to the next floor and find the next portal. You have three attempts at the boss fight before it is game over and the monsters win.
Now the ghosts have a different job that is pretty unique. When you are controlling one of the ghosts, you have the opportunity to become the hazards that the human faces throughout their journey. You can take over traps, summon monsters, and even bring statues to life. To summon a monster, the ghosts will go over a pentagram and it spawns one of the three monsters in their class at random. They then control the monster with a similar control scheme to the human’s move set and their goal is to primarily kill the human. If there are multiple ghosts, you want to be the one that gets the final hit on the human, so you become the next adventurer. To make it a bit more interesting, the ghosts receive wrath points every time the hero levels up and these points are used to upgrade the monsters into their devastating forms. The ghosts are also able to control the different attacks of the bosses when the hero finally reaches the boss room. As the ghosts, you can mess with your friends or let them be until you get you monsters to their final forms, but remember, you want to be the one standing atop the podium as the victor.
Graphically, Crawl resembles games from the era of the Nintendo Entertainment System. The 8-bit graphics provide a nice taste of nostalgia to pair with the interesting stylization that is brought to the table. The sounds aided in the nostalgic feeling, but they are nothing special. The soundtrack is average at best (unless you are super into retro music), but it still provides a spooky atmosphere needed to make this game feel like it should.
Crawl, in my opinion, is an interesting game that has a lot to offer. The matches are fast-paced and they don’t ever seem to drag on. Each match would take around 45 minutes before someone either beat the boss or it was faced three times. That allowed multiple playthroughs of the game and the wide variety of weapons and spells lead to a lot of replayability. The game also features a creature’s mode, where you go up against an AI hero and try to survive to a certain wave. The better the monster, the higher wave you need to get to and the human gets a stronger weapon and becomes more intelligent the longer you go. This title provides a lot of options on how to replay this game. Unfortunately, I did not like it after a while. The game may have a lot of options, but after playing through the game four or five times, I felt as the dungeons did not change enough to warrant another playthrough at this time. I would recommend playing this game in bursts and treat it like a party game. Play it when your friends are over or the occasional time that you are bored with nothing else to do. It will make the best experience in my eyes.
In the end, Crawl is a nostalgic 8-bit dungeon crawler like nothing we have seen before. It is not usual that a dungeon crawler is turned into a party game experience and I feel that the developers did something right with this one. I just recommend treating like it is, a party game, and not burn yourself out on it, especially when you don’t have any friends to play it with. The AI ghosts are not a lot of fun to face.
Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 8/10
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