Every now and again a game comes along which attempts to intentionally subvert the norms of a genre. Many times these variations result in a sub-par experience, brought about due to a weak concept. Thankfully though, Reverse Crawl manages to successfully subvert this trend, bringing a fresh concept to a well-established genre. In the well-trodden genre of dungeon crawlers, Nerdook Productions latest title Reverse Crawl is a fun derivation from the norm.
Reverse Crawl‘s revision to the dungeon crawler is simple: rather than playing a classic hero, players get to play “as the dungeon.” Instead of playing a knight or a mage, adventuring parties are made up of dungeon dwelling creatures. The major exception being the “Revenant King” a warrior king killed in battle who was resurrected by his daughter, the Princess, who is a Necromancer. Rallying behind the love the Princess has for her fallen Father players unite to combat the evil Red Queen.
The story is fun but simple: fight the Red Queen, thwart her best soldiers, escape to the dungeon. There are a few fun twists along the way that is good for a laugh but overall it’s a pretty simple game. An element of the game which made it quite endearing to me is the self-aware sense of humor. The Princess and the Revenant King banter is on point. I regularly found myself giggling at one of the jokes or character asides. While the story arc is pretty simple, my playthrough of the main storyline was an enjoyable one.
How’s it feel?
Mechanically Reverse Crawl operates like all other dungeon crawler RPG’s. Players choose from four basic ‘class’ types: fighter, archer, mage, and beast. Each class comes with its individual advantages and disadvantages, weaknesses or resistances. By playing through the storyline players can unlock or rescue various ‘races‘ which can become your allies against the Red Queen. Some of the races include goblins, ghouls, sirens, and skeletal archers. You also can unlock special characters like a young red dragon or a giant. Each of the special characters possesses natural abilities making them valuable strategic pieces.
From a purely technical standpoint, I only encountered two issues which detracted from the overall experience: player movement and navigating to the “specials” menu. Navigating across the hex-based map was, in general, a bit clunky. Using a joystick felt a bit wild to me, never going quite where I expected it. As such, I typically will use the D-pad for player movements and attacks. For me, the biggest annoyance is in trying to use the Right-Bumper shortcut to access the ‘special moves’. After successfully using the shortcut to jump to the specials and using an ability, the game possesses no way to return from whence you came. Maybe I‘m just getting grumpy but I found myself consistently hitting left bumper in an attempt to jump back. All in all, it’s a small issue but one that I found a bit irritating.
Visuals & Music
In a quick examination of Nerdook Productions website, it is easy to see their games possess a particular visual aesthetic. With a modern take on the classic side-scrolling RPG art style, the game looks pretty good. Simplistic character renderings and backgrounds give the game an early 2000’s Cartoon Network vibe. I personally enjoyed the art style and added to the whimsy of the game. Some may simply not enjoy it, in which case I would advise steering clear.
From a soundtrack perspective, Reverse Crawl will win no awards for outstanding performance. The game’s score is simple, effective and ultimately forgettable. It hits the right notes, moves in the right ways, but I found myself turning it down due to being overly simplistic and repetitive.
All in all Reverse Crawl is a fine game. It is fun, entertaining, and at times challenging. The strategic elements of the game provide fun gameplay experience and fun reinterpretation of the dungeon crawler genre. Its story is rather simple but the clever and witty writing make up for that. It is not a game to expect too much depth out of but if you enjoy dungeon crawlers this would be a solid purchase.