Crystal Catacombs is, in many ways, your typical roguelike game. As Captain Vasil Ravencraft your out on a journey to discover the treasures that dwell deep within the fabled catacombs, but your quest will not be easy, as is always the way with these things. Evil creatures and demons haunt the catacomb’s various lairs, which each have their own theme, and will make your life difficult. Ruthlessly difficult. Nobody has ever returned from within the catacombs to tell their tale, but if you can master this cursed place and destroy the creatures that haunt it, maybe Captain Vasil will be the first.
The developer, Super Fun Games, describes Crystal Catacombs as a “megavania”; a mix between the exploration-based action of Metroid and the relentlessly challenging platforming battles from Megaman. Having tested my mettle against its various lairs it is, most definitely, a fair analogy. The catacombs feature five different areas, which you can tackle in any order you like on normal difficulty, but all are as challenging as each other. Catacombs is reminiscent of Spelunky with its procedurally generated locations and immense difficulty, but it is more stripped back than that, with an old-school flavour that runs all the way through to its core.
After choosing the area you want to start off in you are thrust straight into the action; there’s no tutorial, so you will need to think on your feet and acclimatize to Crystal Catacombs‘ control scheme. Vasil moves with the arrow keys, and you can press the ‘A’, ‘S’ and ‘D’ keys to use items from his hotbar. Just like Samus Aran, he can do a sweet wall slide to gently glide down long passages, and he can also wall jump to propel himself upwards. I was extremely impressed with how responsive and tight movement felt, but was quickly reminded why that would be essential.
The Crystal Catacombs have a diverse and abundant wildlife, and are filled with spiders, gelatinous blobs, bats and demons, all of which are out to get you. Fortunately, Vasil is quite talented with a sword and can tear those nasty mobs a new one. Quick reactions are important and you will need to get used to each enemy’s movement patterns and attacks if you don’t want to die over and over again. You won’t last long if you just go rushing in with your sword waving, instead, if you can kite your enemy away, whilst taking a quick swipe, you will in most cases be successful. Unless that enemy can fire lasers, then you are screwed.
Combat is fast and fun and becomes even more exciting if you can find the various weapons and spells that are scattered throughout the catacombs. Using a sword is great and all but how about a bow, or a rocket launcher instead!? Successfully killing mobs and bosses rewards Vasil with experience points he can use to level up his hit points, magic points, attack and defence; so, while it is possible to speedrun your way to the randomly placed exit, it is not advised. It is really easy to get ahead of yourself and become cocky, blasting your way through the map at a swift pace, only to become a puddle of goop moments later. I highly advise taking things slowly and checking out all of the possible pathways open to you. If any particular passage looks too dangerous or crowded with enemies for you to make it through, it most likely is. Trust your instincts and look for another way around, otherwise you will pay a hefty price.
My only gripe with the game is its miniscule amount of graphics options. You are given the choice of a few low screen resolutions and that’s your lot, you can’t even change to full HD. Surely it wouldn’t be too difficult to include a wider array of resolutions, at the very least?
Nonetheless, I have only begun to scratch the surface of Crystal Catacombs, here; it’s a content rich game for those with sufficient gaming skills to see it all. If you loved Spelunky or Binding of Isaac you will be well equipped for the task of conquering the catacombs. Me on the other hand, I’ve succumbed to far too many premature deaths and am in need of a lie down now.
A special shout out also needs to go to Crescent Moon Games who have been publishing some absolutely stellar titles on Steam recently. Crystal Catacombs will fit right in alongside The Deer God and Mimpi.