Save The Princess, Realm & Food?
HIGH Fast-paced action, screens full of enemies.
LOW The haphazard upgrade system can impede progress.
WTF Why did they store all the now-stolen treasure in the throne room?
Iron Crypticle from Tikipod Limited will always have a place in my heart, if only because it’s the first title I’ve reviewed for the Nintendo Switch. On a more personal note, it got me through a rough period where I underwent several surgeries and a hospital stay, so I will always be grateful for that.
Iron Crypticle is a difficult twin-stick shooter with a problematic upgrade system and somewhat sticky controls, but it’s effortlessly charming and action packed, so even though I’ll probably never finish the campaign, I’ll always enjoy coming back for short sessions, especially once I get some better controllers than the joy-cons to play it properly.
The complacent Knights of Cryptonia have fallen asleep on the job, and the Royal Treasures are immediately purloined, along with the Royal Princess. Naturally, the player (either alone or with up to three friends in co-op) must gear up to save the day, the princess, and the loot. Sure, it’s a limited story, and players are more than likely to skip past it every time after the first, but it emphasizes that Crypticle is as much a send-up as it is a serious action arcade game, and it allows the developers to play with the genre’s tropes. (See also: the frequently understated but hysterical item descriptions).
Once the player has chosen a knight, gameplay is standard top-down, twin-stick shooting where the left joy-con handles movement and the right fires the current weapon in the eight cardinal directions. Enemies attack in several waves, filling the screen with targets and dangers. If the numbers become overwhelming, it’s possible to launch an ultimate attack, the “Atomic Fist”, which clears large circular sections of a room, provided the player has at least one saved.
The player can also collect temporary special weapon upgrades which are more powerful, or attack in different patterns than the standard throwing axe. As they’re defeated, enemies can drop food items which act as multipliers. If enough multipliers are collected, permanent stat upgrades for the current run may be provided, such as increased damage, or a faster fire rate. However, these multipliers are reset if the player takes damage or is unable to reach the next drop in time.
Adding to the challenge is that each room in the crypt is timed. If all enemies aren’t cleared quickly enough, indestructible golems begin to enter. As more golems appear, they also begin firing projectiles, increasing the chaos. Once enemies are completely defeated, the player can choose which exit to take, but maze layouts are random with each new run, and the upcoming contents of each new room aren’t displayed unless a special token is collected. Each floor of the dungeon culminates in a tremendous boss fight, featuring large, detailed monsters, each with several forms and attack patterns.
As great as it is to blast hundreds of enemies and progress through the dungeon, Iron Crypticle has some issues that prevent me from giving it a higher score.
First, the joy-con isn’t the most responsive means of control. I often thought I was firing or moving diagonally, but Crypticle frequently (and frustratingly) accepted the input as going NSEW.
Also, collecting food multipliers was never easy, and I more often than not failed to receive a single permanent stat upgrade by the end of a boss battle. Without these upgrades — especially the critical damage booster — subsequent levels become too difficult as enemies soak up even more damage. Collecting coins to use at the vendor was easy enough, but since the vendor’s items are random, I often didn’t get the upgrades I needed there, either.
Also, while I liked the possibility of local co-op with each player using half of a joy-con, the control scheme is hampered by locking a player’s firing direction to their movement.
With all this said, I don’t want anyone to think that Iron Crypticle isn’t enjoyable. I had good times with it, and I’m convinced that with better controllers and a tweaked upgrade system, my son and I would eventually be able to find greater success. Crytpicle is close to being a must-play, and even as it stands, it’s worth a look.
— Jeff Ortloff
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Tikipod Limited.It is currently available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 12 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. 1 hour of play were spent in the co-op mode.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood, and Fantasy Violence. The game features armored knights fighting and killing various fantasy creatures. Enemies explode into pixelated blood spray when defeated. This blood disappears as the game continues. The game features undead enemies such as zombies and skeletons, which will probably be disturbing to younger players. Large boss monsters may be a bit more disturbing to even slightly older gamers.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Sound cues generally have a visual component. Gamers should not have any difficulty navigating the maps or engaging in combat, mini-games, or shop purchases. Subtitles cannot be resized, nor are there font choices. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.