Grab all the food and fast!
In a world where twin-stick shooters are a dime a dozen, Iron Crypticle bucks the trend of fast and hectic action for a more slow-paced retro vibe. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of intense moments as you slay hordes of enemies, but don’t expect to do it in a fast and flashy manner. Oddly enough, despite the dark atmosphere, collecting fun and colorful food proves to hold the key to unlocking your true power.
Iron Crypticle plays similarly to many other twin-stick shooters. Movement is done with the left stick and both aiming and firing are done with the right stick. In keeping with its retro roots, there is no 360 degree aiming; instead, you can fire off rounds in the cardinal and diagonal directions. This means you’ll constantly be on the move to in order to hit enemies hiding in your “blind spots.” Always being on the move proves to be a wise practice as the deeper you descend into the crypts, even more enemies will continue to flood the screen, which means getting caught in corners can quickly turn deadly. The diversity in the arsenal of weapons is nice, but I found some to be clunkers and more annoying to use than anything. Luckily, there are a few more tools at your disposal including a dash, a super attack that kills all enemies around you, and magic scrolls each with different uses. If you do happen to fall in battle, a limited number of lives allow you to continue your progress into the depths.
Where Iron Crypticle really separates itself from the pack is with the interesting power-up system. As you collect various items, you gain experience and upon leveling up will increase your upgrade slots. However, this doesn’t actually upgrade your core abilities of movement speed, rate of fire, weapon damage, and weapon duration. These are increased by reaping the reward of chain collecting food items that enemies drop. Collect eight in a row and you’ll earn a “100x8” multiplier and continuing to grab more food after that point will result in a random power-up drop. This promotes not only killing the enemies in a timely fashion, but also properly timing your pickups before the multiplier runs out and the item despawns. This can become pretty tricky as you bob and weave between enemies to get pieces of fruit scattered across the level. The system is a bit confusing at first, especially since it’s never really articulated very well. You can find the information in the instructions area, but even then it took me a few runs to fully understand how it worked.
Traversing deep into the crypts is the name of the game, and getting to the end of each floor can be achieved through branching paths along the way. Strategically picking your route is important as each room presents different challenges. I found myself always aiming to get to either the shop, where a cute little cat sells you his wares, or to the arcade which lets you take a break from blasting enemies to play a little platformer to gain extra coins. I did dread certain rooms such as the graveyard, but mostly because the screen was far too dark, making it difficult to see enemies, especially in handheld mode. Bosses waiting at the end of each floor have numerous variations, making each time you play different than the last. I always looked forward to facing off against these big bads, and while not overly complicated, they were always a fun challenge to tackle. True to the arcade experience, local co-op helps to make the journey even more fun, especially since a friend can jump in at anytime.
Iron Crypticle boasts a fascinating power-up system that revolves around building up combo chains by collecting pieces of food dropped by enemies. It’s not articulated particularly well and can lead to some confusion at first, but once fully understood it proves to be a lot of fun. The pace of the game tends to be a bit slow, especially on early floors which don’t present as much of a challenge as later floors. However, branching paths, local co-op, multiple difficulties, and even online leaderboards help round out the overall package.