Iron Crypticle is described as a medieval twin-stick dungeon shooter that sees the princess of Cryptonia abducted, along with the king’s royal golden treasures. This is where you come in, taking on the role of the king’s washed-up knights, you’ll need to suit up and descend into the ancient palace crypts to save the princess and nab the king’s lost loot. Yes, that’s as about as bulky as the story gets, but given that games of this genre need only rely on intriguing, unique, and challenging gameplay, this gets a pass on that front.
The game supports up to four players that each must sink deep into the depths of the experience at hand, taking down every nasty creature that stands in their way, whilst collecting any treasure that your foes will drop. Unlike the traditional meaning of loot, which is something you would expect to offer up new weapons and gear, loot in Iron Crypticle will reward you in other ways too. By either visiting the in-game shops, or chaining pickups, you can upgrade abilities such as speed, damage, fire-rate, and weapon duration. Chests filled with coins are also dotted around each floor, as well as bonus items to offer much needed aid.
Gameplay typically relies on you dashing from pickup to pickup to keep your chain high for increased points and stat boosts, as well as laying waste to each of the varied opponents that want to bring you to your knees. The aforementioned ability to increase speed, damage, fire-rate, and weapon duration, can be achieved by picking up food that your foes will drop once you best them. You begin at 100×1, and then 100×2, then 100×3, all the way up to 100×8. Taking damage or not maintaining the chain will reset you to 100×1, but if you’re skilled enough to maintain the chain, you’ll grab that fabled randomised boost, and believe me, you’ll need all the help you can get.
The benefits of these boosts are not immediately apparent, but as soon as they begin to stack up, you can feel the added kick that your knight houses. Despite that the boosts are not permanent, you can indeed unlock and earn new weapons and added extras to ease the otherwise rather difficult twin-stick shooter that Iron Crypticle is. This is made all the more apparent when playing on higher difficulties, and for me, I settled with the easy settings just to feel somewhat competent. The actual difficulty curve is one downside for me, being that the game is hard enough as it is to begin with, let alone what awaits you as you get further in.
It’s a fun game, but it can feel taxing for those that are particularly new to the genre. Especially when you’re constantly downed on the same floor, simply because there’s too much going on, too much to juggle, and you’re made to feel out of your depth. This wouldn’t be something I would normally complain about, but on the base difficulty, it was just far too hard. Iron Crypticle allows you to pull up a map if you want to get a vibe for what comes next, so long as you obtain it beforehand. Each floor is a series of rooms that interconnect with one another, spiralling off in all sorts of directions. These rooms tend to house different enemy types and formations, and vary from shops, arcade rooms, graveyards, and more.
Shops can be visited to pick up a set of items that almost always prove more than handy to invest in, arcade rooms will allow you to play a fun mini-game, whereas most of the other rooms tend to dish out endurance themed challenges, and wave-based combat. Another gripe I have with the game is that you cant take a time-out and save your progress. When you take into consideration that floors only get bigger and more compact as you make your way through, it can sometimes wear thin, but due to the lack of a save system it’s either press on or quit. I couldn’t help but feel as though the latter levels were better designed for multiplayer, but sadly Iron Crypticle is local play only.
Abilities such as dash come tethered to a cool-down so it’s important to balance the use of this, as I found on many occasions it had depleted when I often needed it most. Atomic Fist will see your knight let loose a powerful ground slam that will destroy enemies in close proximity. Weaponry outside of this ranges from frag grenades, hammers, axes, and more, all of which are powerful enough in their own right to see you clearing each procedural generated level. It’s not all as straight forward as that though, seeing as if you don’t clear a room quickly enough, invincible golems will spawn which forces you to act quickly. Though it must be said that even the golems don’t sit in the same league as the boss battles. These tough-as-nails confrontations are hugely entertaining, and there’s nothing quite as satisfying in the game than sending a screen-hogging enemy on a one way trip to the afterlife.
By design, Iron Crypticle offers a lot of replay value. Added implementations such as an Endless Mode and Leaderboards help to take it that one step further to ensure you’re getting your money’s worth. The Ledger is also a neat feature that takes note of everything you have picked up in the adventure so far, which again, pushes you back into the fold to chase after more items. The game comes with a good soundtrack and fairly decent 8-bit visuals, if at times a little too dark. There’s easily hours upon hours worth of playtime to enjoy if you can bond with the tough difficulty, and with a generous price point, it’s hard to grumble at what’s on offer.
Iron Crypticle is a good entry to the twin-stick shooter genre and houses some unique mechanics and heaps of content and replay value. Sadly, the harsh difficulty, the (at times) overly dark visuals, the lack of online support, and the inability to save and quit, make this somewhat less enjoyable than it could have been. If you can overlook those issues, Iron Crypticle will pack one hell of a punch for hours on end. The price point is well set, so even if the game doesn’t particularly sing to you, it’s hardly going to break the bank. In any case, the game does well at offering up enough variety as well as procedural generation to keep the adventure feeling fresh on each run.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.