Enter the Spell-Geon
HIGH Deep, satisfying mechanics.
LOW Vision-obscuring level layouts.
WTF RNG within RNG within RNG…
One of the most important feelings I always look to extract from a videogame is the notion of ‘purpose’. It may sound redundant, but I appreciate when a title is so intricately put together that every moment of playing is relevant and carries consequences. In other words, I take great joy when a developer respects the player by not offering filler and instead serves up steak. Then, it’s up to us to find our footing in the world, puzzle out the nature of things, and ultimately be rewarded.
Crown Trick is the epitome of such principles. Taking place in a nightmare realm, we direct a girl named Ellie who tries to free humanity from imprisonment. However, Ellie can combat evil only when sleeping – when awake, she finds herself in a hub area. There she can upgrade certain stats and converse with rescued merchants, each specializing in categories like weapon crafting, healing, finance, and so on. Once she chooses to fall asleep, she is transported to a procedurally-generated dungeon, and by finding her way deeper into this dream labyrinth, she gets closer to the source of the problems.
In this struggle, Ellie is aided by a resident of that alternate, slumbering universe – a sentient crown with an attitude! With its guidance, she quickly learns how to move in the nightmare, but also how to utilize the many weapon types and magical creatures at her disposal.
In these top-down roguelike dungeons, Ellie moves cautiously on the grid-like floors, with enemies only able to approach or attack in turn-based style after Ellie makes a move. When in range, she can opt to strike with whatever weapon she has equipped or try to lure a foe near an environmental hazard, like an exploding barrel or an electricity trap.
While these are the basics, she’s not entirely free to employ any tactics she wishes — as a procedural roguelike, every dungeon is its own story, and there’s no telling what awaits in the next room. Some hold interesting text-adventure-like puzzles, others might have treasure chests that require a key, and some initiate a mini-boss encounter. It’s by defeating those that Ellie gains access to magic skills. By combining these and being mindful of various elemental interactions, I was able to perform some devastating combo-style attacks.
Aside from offensive tools, Ellie can equip a limited number of items and a (theoretically) unlimited number of relics, and these relics are where the complex heart of Crown Trick‘s system truly lies. Upon picking one up, it may provide supremely useful stats for the current loadout, like a buff that increases ranged damage when using a pistol or a chance to attack twice in one turn. However, some offer tricky downsides that prevent the player from becoming unstoppably OP. The acquisition of delightfully useful relics can’t be counted on, though — finding one is pure RNG luck.
While all of these elements come together to offer a superb roguelike experience, the thing that bothered me during a run (which can take up to one hour) was when some environmental decoration (like an urn, etc.) would completely obscure enemies’ area of attack. Since all baddies telegraph their maneuvers on the grid ahead of time, it’s key to keep a close eye for the red-blinking squares — except when we can’t! Of course, this is entirely a result of the unchanging overhead point of view, set at a 90-degree angle. It would’ve helped to be able to move the camera for increased clarity.
Despite that occasional irritation, Crown Trick never lost its allure and charm. I cannot overstate what a pleasant surprise it was, and I’m sure it will be for all tactically-inclined gamers like me. Every defeat only rejuvenated my interest to see how the next levels would be constructed — definitely the most remarkable ‘trick’ up Crown Trick’s sleeves. This one is a true pearl.
— Konstantin Koteski
Disclosures: This game is developed by NExT Studios and published by Team17. It is currently available on XBO, Xbox Series X, PS4, PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 Pro. Approximately 35 hours of play were devoted to the story, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: This game has received an “T” rating from the ESRB, and it contains Fantasy Violence and Simulated Gambling. The game tackles some serious issues, but it’s all told in a cartoony and unobtrusive sort of way. The combat is turn-based and not at all graphic. There’s no evidence of pain being inflicted between the cutely drawn 2D sprites and defeated foes vanish into thin air right away.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There’s no voice acting, and all dialogue is told through text with a portrait of the speaking character. Sound is completely unimportant for finishing this game. In my view, this is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: This game offers a controller diagram, and the control scheme is remappable.