Developed in the classic 8-bit format, Crawl moves way better than any other game of the same style would. You enter a dungeon trying to find your way out but kill your other three friends out of madness (according to the announcer); their vengeful spirits attempt to kill you in order to take your body by becoming corporeal creatures, hurling objects and taking over traps in poltergeist fashion. Originally skeptical of the title, ID@Xbox has brought us a rather fantastic iteration of what a dungeon-crawler that meets a multiplayer brawler should be and it was hard to find anything that was bad about it.
Great concept: Four characters enter, but only one body remains to occupy as the other three spirits try their best to kill the alive one to take it over and escape the dungeon. Players need to earn enough experience points to get to level 10 in order to activate the portal leading out whilst the spirits gain wrath in order to upgrade creatures they summon. These creatures are all so unique from each other, and many of them evolve into more powerful versions of themselves with more Wrath you accumulate. Each boss almost has their own story at the end of the dungeons, as well, as one necromancer like being pulls out his own heart and stuffs it into a giant statue that suddenly animates.
Other modes to play: You don’t only have the campaigns to go through, which there are numerous ones with different end-bosses, but also challenge modes for each creature in your encyclopedia. When you go over them you can enter a challenge mode in which you need to use them to kill a mortal in a sort-of horde wave mode in which their weapon and health evolves in difficulty. These challenges add something new to do when you get tired of the normal story mode but it’s hard to get sick of any of it when each adventure feels different.
Can play by yourself or with up to 3 other friends: This covers a wide range of players who prefer to play by themselves or with their buddies across online and same screen if you have four controllers. It’s fun to find multiple ways on how to sneak in a shot at the ‘mortal’ in order to gain their life either by yourself or when you team up with the other ‘dead souls’. One player may be getting too close to level 10 and therefore victory, so everybody will decide to band together to make sure they don’t succeed. It’s a classic mindset that made multiplayer games fun and this is simplistic yet complicated enough to pull it off again.
Fantastic sound effects and score: Usually for brawling games such as this there are certain sounds and tracks that start to grind on players’ minds after awhile, but Crawl does such a good job at keeping the blood pumping and satisfying us audibly. It may become overwhelming (a point that will be brought up later) when the map gets too crazily cluttered and its hard to distinguish sounds from one another. This, however, does not affect the overall sound quality of the title and what it was intended to be with its 8-bit sounding crunching and slicing noises.
Can get too crazy: Too much can be going on at once where three players are either inhabiting creatures and traps and the player is launching large-scale magic attacks which fill up the screen and severely disorient the players as to what’s going on. It doesn’t help that the color of the player doesn’t match the color on their ID tag at the bottom of the screen from time to time so when someone comes back to life you might think you have gotten it but it’s actually someone else. It would have been nice to add some feature that makes it even more discernible that you’re about to get the life back.
Crawl brings back a couch-multiplayer that’s not only fun but is a game that’s great for parties and coming back to years down the road. There’s so many moments throughout game-play to mess up your buddies’ chances and it can take real skill to figure out when to strike at the alive player. I’d definitely recommend this game to anyone as it’s easy to play, the mechanics for everything is understandable, and you can play this with friends or by yourself against competent AI that sincerely adjusts to the difficulty setting.
Crawl was developed and published by Powerhoof. It was released for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 [reviewed], and PC via Microsoft Windows on April 11th, 2017. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels. Many studios submit copies for site review but this is in no way factored into our review scores. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.
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