Roguelikes! You gotta love ’em. Nah, seriously, you gotta love ’em, because if you don’t you’re not going to have many indie games to play. After the success of games like Dead Cells, Darkest Dungeon and so on, it’s no surprise that there have been plenty of attempts to slurp up some of that delicious roguelike revenue. That brings us to Crown Trick, a new and spicy take on the idea that combines solid fundamentals with a few interesting twists.
Elle’s having a pretty tough time. Waking up in the Nightmare Realm will do that, after all…or is that falling asleep and ending up in the Nightmare Realm? In any case, it’s a pretty spooky place full of unpleasantness that wants to give Elle a beating. Fortunately, it turns out she’s not alone; she’s got a magical talking crown to help her out. With Crown’s help, an arsenal of weapons and some customizable magic, Elle’s going to delve into the Nightmare Realm and deal with the villainous Vlad.
Crown Trick takes the traditional turn-based roguelike formula and twists it around in just the right ways to feel fresh. The basics are there, of course. Enemies move and act when Elle does, so you’ve got plenty of time to plan your way through battles. You’ll wander through randomly-generated dungeons collecting randomly-generated items and battling randomly-generated enemies. As with many roguelikes, Crown Trick is all about proper positioning and learning to make the best use of what the game gives you. There’s a little bit of Divinity: Original Sin here, too, as most abilities leave elemental fields that can be manipulated by Elle and enemies; water can be electrified, for instance, and there’s all sorts of fun to be had with fire.
Elle herself is a little underpowered compared to her opponents, but she’s got a couple tricks up her sleeve. First, enemies have an HP value as expected, but they also have a Break value that decreases as Elle hits them. Attacking while the enemy is preparing a spell or while Elle is close to her target decreases this value more quickly. When an enemy’s Break value reaches zero, they’re Broken and will take massively increased damage. What’s more, repeatedly breaking enemies grants Elle a further increase to the damage she deals, so it’s possible to take down seemingly unbeatable enemies by using this system to give yourself a significant advantage.
The other big twist lies in Elle’s ability to use captured mini-boss enemies as Familiars. These are larger, more dangerous foes that require a little more thinking to defeat. When they’re beaten, though, they’re added to Elle’s stable of Familiars, offering her two unique magic abilities. Elle can equip two Familiars at once, so that’s four spells total, and the proper combination can do some pretty interesting things. Laying down massive areas of oil that you then light aflame can be a great way of dealing with groups of enemies, while poison proves to be an excellent way of dealing with more powerful enemies without taking too much damage yourself.
Make no mistake: despite all this, Crown Trick is tough. Any individual fight can be deadly, even more so than in most roguelikes, and you’ll need to really put your techniques to work to get through. The bosses you face between floors are even nastier. Don’t get too discouraged if it takes several attempts to even get to the third or fourth level regularly – and even then, Crown Trick’s a fairly lengthy game that’s always trying to push you to the limit.
It’s also a pretty cute game. For all the dying you’ll be doing, at least the creatures inflicting that pain upon you generally look adorable. Crown Trick runs well and plays great with a controller, so it’s a solid choice for couch gaming regardless of if you’re on a console or PC.
If you’re okay with the level of challenge that Crown Trick offers, it’s a surprisingly deep and enjoyable roguelike adventure. There’s some scuffed paint here and there – this game’s English localization was clearly not the first priority here, honestly – but generally speaking this is a fantastic title with plenty to offer. If you’ve got some time to spend learning the ins and outs of everything, it’s easy to recommend a visit to the Nightmare Realm.