Do you remember those old arcade dungeon crawling games? The ones where you could play with your friends and kill each other? Man, those were the days. Thankfully, Crawl by Australian studio Powerhoof, comprised by a duo of friends, Barney and David, seeks to bring those days back. Although the game is still in Early Access, it shows a lot of promise.
In Crawl we take on the role of a dungeon delver, seeking to find the boss of the dungeon. He is not alone, however. He is accompanied by one to three adventurers, controlled either by the AI or friends. The thing is, however, that these guys do not trust each other, at all. So, what can they do? Well, it’s simple. At the start of the game, everybody’s character fights the others to the death. The one who remains is the one who gets the chance to have a go at the boss first. To do that, he has to reach level 10 and activate a portal.
Gameplay-wise, the game is very simple. The hero of the story goes through rooms, clearing the monsters in them and leveling up until he’s ready to fight the boss. What sets Crawl’s gameplay apart from all other similar games is that the ones who control the monsters (and also any traps you find) are your friends. Remember all the guys you killed at the game’s start? They are now ghosts, circling around you and taking control of all obstacles in your path. Should one of these ghosts manage to kill you, he takes your place as the hero, while you become a ghost. The winner is the one who weathers the assault of his friends and clears the boss. Be careful though, you only get three attempts at the boss as a group.
Apart from this core of the gameplay, there are many features that give the game an extra edge. For example, when you select how many players will play the game (and also name them using that old arcade three letter naming) you also select which gods they worship. Depending on your choice of god, you get to control different monsters when you are a ghost. Moreover, ghosts have access to evolutions, so they can keep up with the player when he levels up. Through these evolutions, ghosts also improve, making the game more even. Although these features are available from the start, you unlock more of them whenever you make progress in the game.
Another feature the game offers is one that is a staple of most games of the genre: a shop. In the shop, you can buy not only weapons, but also potions, scrolls and artifacts. Potions allow you to improve one stat at the expense of another, while scrolls change your special ability (which is usually rolling). Lastly, artifacts are items that give you buffs and also companions, like a shield that orbits around you. To buy anything from the shop, you will need money, which you can get by killing enemies.
In terms of graphics and sound, the game does a pretty good job. The graphics are also reminiscent of that old arcade era, further reinforcing that aspect of the game. The sound is also very good, immersing you in the game. The only issue I have with that part of the game is that sometimes there are way too many screen flashes for my liking.
On top of that, there are a few more things that I’d like to see improved or added to the game in future updates. For one, I’d like to see a few more bosses added, for some extra variety. Also in the name of variety, I’d like to see some more designs for the rooms we enter. Most of them are really simple, so I’d like some more complicated ones. Finally, I’d like to see online multiplayer, since that would allow everyone to enjoy the game to the maximum.
All in all, Crawl is a fantastic homage to the old arcade games, providing hours of fun both on your own but also with your friends. With the game being in such a good day today, I’m really optimistic about the next updates to it. The only major problem the game has right now is that it can get a bit repetitive, so if measures against this are taken, I see Crawl making quite a bit splash later this year.
You can find Crawl on Steam’s Early Access for 10 euros.