Whilst Iron Crypticle looks like it’d be the perfect set up for another 2D platformer from the outside, it’s actually a twin-stick shooter that sees you working your way through a giant Crypt as a Knight to save your Kingdom’s princess. Unique premise, huh? You only get one life to do this too, so once you die it’s game over. It makes for a fun little experience, but one that’s a bit short-lived thanks to its lack of innovation and originality.
Each floor of the Crypt is full to the brim with different monsters to vanquish, with each room you venture through throwing enemies at you in a variety of different ways. Sometimes they’ll all be there waiting for you, whilst other times they’ll slowly come in one by one giving you the chance to try and get the upper hand. Once you’ve cleared a room you can leave via one of the exit doors that unlocks; Iron Crypticle lets you progress through each floor of the Crypt however you please, giving you the freedom to head through any rooms that catch your eye on the map. Eventually you’ll come up against the floor boss – conquer them and you’ll progress deeper into the Crypt. It’s all very basic stuff, but the freedom to explore how you want does add an extra degree of variety to each playthrough of the game you have.
The simplistic nature of the game carries over to the main gameplay too, with Iron Crypticle not offering anything you wouldn’t have seen before. It’s probably its biggest flaw; whilst the game is competent at providing a decent twin-stick shooting experience, you’ll tire of it quickly since there are more innovative titles available to play instead. It all boils down to running around, avoiding hazards, and blasting away at enemies. You can pick up different weapons to use for a small period of time that pack a bit more punch, but their limited usage means it’s hard to invest yourself into enjoying them for too long. You do have a couple of special abilities though, with your Atomic Fist able to dish out damage to enemies in your immediate vicinity and your dash ability allowing you to quickly leap out of any tricky situations. Again though, these are the sort of things you’d have seen plenty of times before in other games. There’s just nothing new on show to really hook you in – don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t make Iron Crypticle a bad game, but it can make it difficult to want to stick with it for a long time.
The game does have a couple of other issues that were hard to look past. You can level your character up in the game with stats like speed, damage, fire rate, and weapon duration available to be improved. However, rather than using a standard XP system, you instead improve them by chain-collecting the different food items that an enemy drops when you kill them. There’s no denying it’s a novel approach, but it could be a little frustrating; sometimes the quick paced nature of the game would make it difficult to chain together collecting food pick ups, whilst when playing in multiplayer it’s a race to grab them first between players. I can appreciate the developers tried to do something a little different, but it proved to be a frustrating way to improve your character. At least you can buy stat upgrades in the in-game shop, though…
Another flaw was in the twin-stick shooting mechanics, with the game not giving you the full freedom to shoot in a 360 degree motion but instead limiting you to specific angles. It adds an emphasis on moving your character around more in order to actually be able to target an enemy, which isn’t only more difficult in general but can also see you put into an awkward situation when cornered by foes – Iron Crypticle is already a pretty tough game, so having the gameplay mechanics working against you doesn’t help. It’s not a terrible thing and feels in line with the old school approach the developers have gone for, but when modern twin-stick shooters allow full flexibility it could make the game feel a little dated. It might just be me nitpicking, but I found it could deter from the experience a little bit.
Whilst Iron Crypticle feels pretty average as a single player experience, it’s a blast to play through in four player co-op. The gameplay and old-school style really compliments multiplayer, whilst the all out action that takes place in each room feels even more chaotic with some friends. I’ve spent a good couple of hours playing through in multiplayer and we’ve yet to complete it, so the extra players don’t stop the game being a challenge – unlike the single player though, it’s a challenge I look forward to returning to.
The game looks nice from a visual perspective too, with it adopting a top-down view that looks like a hybrid of Gauntlet and Ghosts n’ Goblins. It’s not the most stunning pixel art you’re going to see, but it’ll certainly resonate well with those who enjoyed the classic releases. It’s incredibly old school but works perfectly well with the style of the game.
As a single player experience it’s hard to recommend Iron Crypticle due to its somewhat basic design and lack of innovation, but when played with friends it was a hell of a lot of fun. Sure, there are probably better multiplayer shooters out there, but there was something about the old school nature of the game that really appealed to me.
If you’ve got four friends around and fancy some chaotic action, give Iron Crypticle a blast. If you’re going solo though, there are too many better titles available to really recommend giving it a purchase.
Developer: Confused Pelican
Release Date: 11/07/2017 (Playstation 4), 12/07/2017 (Xbox One, PC)
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC