Iron Crypticle Review

Iron Crypticle, from TikiPod and Confused Pelican has landed on Xbox One – and it’s definitely worth a go.

The premise behind Iron Crypticle is simple. You play as one of the King’s Guard in the kingdom of Cryptonia. You’re defending the royal treasure hoard one stormy night when suddenly there’s a flash of lightning, a shattering of glass, and a hole in the floor where the treasure used to be! As an upstanding defender of the realm, you leap into the hole without a thought for your own personal safety, and find yourself in a monster-filled maze. From there, navigate the maze, kill the monsters, find the treasure. Classic stuff.

Iron Crypticle looks and plays like a 16-bit era top down shooter. Imagine Smash TV and Ghosts ‘N Goblins getting drunk in a bar one night and stumbling home for a one night stand… this game is very likely what you’d end up with as a result of the (ahem) union. The graphics are wonderful with chunky sprites reminiscent of the era, and the chiptune music pushes down hard on the nostalgia button.

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Gameplay is simple – the left stick controls movement, the right stick controls direction of fire. You’ve got a dash ability on the right bumper (it has a cooldown on it, so use it sparingly) and the left bumper lets your character call down a lightning strike with a large area of effect – perfect for clearing yourself some space when you’re getting swamped, and it invokes memories of Golden Axe while it’s doing it.

The monsters you’re up against are nice and varied in design and behaviour – some lumber blindly around the room waiting to fall to your stream of throwing axes, while some will rush you and others will fire projectiles from afar that will either kill you or freeze you in place for a moment. It all combines to some frantic action that will test your hand to eye co-ordination right from the off. As you kill monsters, they drop food items and gems that you can pick up to chain your score – the higher the chain, the more goodies drop for you and the more health bars/speed you earn.  The levelling up of your character was the only part of the game we found confusing – not that it really matters though as progress is only tied to that game and resets on Game Over. Chests will appear containing weapons or coins – weapons such as throwing stars, flamethrowers and grenades all mix up the action with how you can best use them.

As you clear each room, you get the choice of where to go next (another Smash TV homage for the collection), so you can plot your route through the maze to either deliberately visit or avoid certain rooms. The rooms are randomly positioned each game, so you won’t necessarily take the same route twice.

The coins you collect can be used to buy power ups from a cat merchant (he’s adorable AND incredibly stingy) or spend them on an arcade machine that appears in one of the rooms on each level. The arcade game puts you into a side scrolling platform game that has you running from left to right while being chased by an insta-death roller – and is almost as much fun as the core game.

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Navigate through the maze of the level and you’ll eventually reach a boss – they tend to fill rooms and have distinct attack patterns, just like the arcade game bosses of yesteryear. Once you learn the pattern they can become comparatively straightforward – but learning those patterns is difficult, and made harder by the fact that the game re-inforces a mechanic not often seen these days. You have health, but once you die it’s game over and you start from the beginning again. In co-op, the players share a set number of continues – meaning you’ll likely be arguing over who gets to be resurrected and who doesn’t, just like in the good old days. Check out the launch trailer below:

We really enjoyed Iron Crypticle. As well as being a lot of fun, it oozes passion. Developed by a small team of four people, you can clearly see what influenced them and the games they love bubbling up to the surface throughout. If you’re a fan of twin stick arcade shooters, you should check it out. It’s a lot of fun.

Iron Crypticle is available on the Xbox Store now for £7.19.

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