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Chill out, Chilli!

  • Liberty
  • 11/30/2019 01:48 AM
Crypt Challenge DX was a game that was released for the Release the Dead event of 2019. It's a dungeon-crawl RPG and clocks in at about 1-2 hours of play. I played the game in full as part of a Livestream.

This review will have spoilers.

The game revolves around a generic protagonist by the name of Koros, and an amnesic woman he finds by the name of Chilli. The plot is very basic and it was easy to see where the game was going with the Big Reveal within moments of meeting Chilli.

The characters were rather one-dimensional and flat. Chilli as a character was kind of dumb, playing up the sex appeal in order to inflate the ego of the player/Koros and 'pretend innocence' which read as incredibly fake from the very start. Unfortunately, it didn't work out well and the whole set-up of her reveal as the mysterious evil Necromancer was incredibly obvious from the get-go.

This could have easily been fixed in a number of ways, mainly by removing amnesia as a plot device and instead, doing something else like having her pretend to be a fellow paladin looking for the Necromancer or having her be an innocent 'prisoner' you meet further in the dungeon.

There was some effort to drop hints towards the real identity of the Necromancer (even if they really weren't needed) and I did appreciate that the dev tried to make the mystery solvable for anyone who didn't see through Chilli's guise in the first ten minutes of having her in the party, but I feel it could have been done better (perhaps less 'you have betrayed us now die' and more 'Muahahaha die bo- UH I mean DIE YOU GOODY GOODY TWO SHOES!'). Perhaps a more humourous bend would have worked better in a game like this.

The story also had more than one end though I've no idea how to get anything other than the good end, though I assume it has something to do with the fruits and having Excalibur.

Also, please keep in mind people read at different rates. I'd recommend changing the autoscrolling text to the slowest it can go and then allow holding enter to speed it up because it's currently too fast to read through comfortably.

I did like the various shout-outs and game cameos, though. Those were fun even if they kind of broke the overall mood that the game seemed to be aiming for.

The aesthetic of the game was a mixed bag. On the one hand, the battles were kinda cool looking. I liked the big sprite aesthetics going on in there, as well as the black screen. I only wish the rest of the game had used the same sort of graphical style as it really would have fit a bit better. It was rather jarring to go from full RTP to custom battle imagery.

The maps were... pretty bad, to be honest. Definitely not the worst RTP use I've ever seen, or even the worst maps I've encountered, but not good either. They worked as a base on which the rest of the game was made but a few rounds in the tutorial section and feedback areas would probably help fix that. For what it's worth, at least it all looked like it should? The floor was a floor, the ceiling was a ceiling, skeletons were skeletons.

Shout out to the custom battlers tho. Nice touch!

Also, keep an eye out for autoshadow weirdness - the hall map on the way to the Necromancer confused me when a piece of the autoshadow was missing and I thought it indicated a secret passage.

The general aspect of the gameplay was to walk around, fight random encounters, defeat some bosses and do a few small 'puzzles'. As a whole, it was alright, but there were some issues.

The biggest problem being the balance in battle. A lot of skills will one-shot kill the main character, even on the weakest enemies in the game, and when you start you only have Koros. He has to get through a field of monsters to even find Chilli and it is very easy to die before you even get your second character. That? That's a crapshoot.

The balance of skills could have been toned down a bit as anything that was effective was incredibly effective and anything that wasn't did barely anything. I'm a fan of applying weaknesses and strengths to a game and being that the game used the Octopath Traveller system by Olivia, it is built into it by default. However, there's a huge difference between having a weakness and having an incredibly broken weakness. The fact that most battles were impossible without Chilli in the party (at least until you got Excalibroken) says a lot for the balance.

I understand that the game was made for you to need Chilli and justify her coming along in the party, however it would have been a better idea to rely on the boost system a bit more and tone down the extremes of the weakness/strengths a bit so that Koros actually has half a chance of surviving when attacked by anything, ever.

That major flaw aside, the battles played out quite well. I didn't get overly annoyed at them despite there being random battles, and progressing through the various areas gave a decent amount of cash for any items you needed. The items were balanced pretty well to keep you on your feet if you DID survive an attack, at least.

The puzzles were there, I guess. They weren't very inspired or interesting - I think I got annoyed at the one where you have to go and turn on all the crystals due to it forcing you to backtrack and, well, random encounters and puzzles rarely go well together. The skeleton 'puzzle' that amounted to just talking at every skeleton was meh. Not sure what the timer did as it finished counting down in battle for me and nothing happened.

I do like the idea of the forbidden fruit, though. The temptation to use them was a good idea, however, I got more than enough money to buy enough items that I never felt the need to. They also seemed broken - I used them all on the last boss and it didn't change the ending, though I was sure they were tied up with that. Oh well.

Overall, the game has a lot of work to do to be good. It's got promise but it really needs to pull back a bit and not be so gung-ho about beating you over the head with things like Chilli's sexual preferences and the weakness/strength unbalancement.

I hope that the dev looks into the game and actually gives it some spit-shine in order to make it better - there are some nice ideas in it that could be great if given a bit of extra work. I'd love to see the RTP replaced with custom stuff, for example, especially with how the battles look.

I've played a lot worse games and for something about an hour-long, it's alright. I wouldn't really recommend it to people in its current iteration, though.

End Thoughts
I came back to write this because I think it needs saying and I don't want to be too harsh in this review since the game isn't horrible or terribad.

There was obviously a lot of thought put into this project and how things would work together. I appreciate that a lot. I want to expand a bit more on these aspects as I liked the thought process that went into creating those aspects of the game even if they didn't fall out the way they could have.

Firstly, the idea of making a character who is indispensable in battle as a way to ensure that there's a canon story-related reason to take them along with you was great. I really love that kind of thing, when gameplay backs up the story and vice versa. The whole aspect of why Koros AND the player wanted to bring Chilli along made a lot of sense when faced with the fact that Koros just wasn't that great at battling the enemies in the cave. HOWEVER, we're led to believe that Koros is an experienced warrior in the intro and while he has some skills to reflect a bit of skill, it was not on the level of what was explained, and it was a case of not backing up His story as well as Hers.

Thus it came off as a bit hamfisted in that here was this very experienced fighter of all things good and he has trouble against a few ghosts and ghouls - so much so that he dies in the very first fights you come into contact with easily. It could easily be tweaked to allow a little more balance where he is clearly struggling a bit but still capable of holding his own, and the addition of someone who has a greater advantage to the team definitely would help him clear the dungeon. There was no need to make him so weak that he'd faint every time a monster so much as looked at him. I do understand what you were going for with making him weak but it was taken to 11 when it really only needed to go to 7 at the most. (That is, instead of making him just weak, you made him super weak and it made a joke of this so-called strong character who had dealt with many evils before.)

On top of that, the character of Chilli wasn't interesting however, her gameplay was... in a few ways. Making her not weak to attacks from her own creations was a great idea and if it wasn't already apparent that she was the Necromancer from the first 5 minutes with her, it would have been a great clue to figure out the truth of her being. The fact that she used dark magic - especially necromantic in nature - was a pretty huge red flag and one that shows that care was given in making her match her end goal as a character, but that none was given to Koros who just shrugged off that this strange bint who forced her way into his group knows evil necromantic spells, despite being known far and wide as someone who SHOULD know those things... well, it created a disparity and shallowed out the entire reason for matching story to gameplay, sadly.

It would have been a treat to see Koros call her out on her magics or her trying to hide the magic by pretending it was something else to trick him into trusting her. Maybe if she'd not 'lost her memory' she could have done something along the lines of saying that she'd been cursed or that she was casting spells of another caste but they just looked similar. Or just renamed them to something that made it seem like they weren't straight-up dark magic spells.

Another thing that could have been interested was the idea that she really was just an innocent who had the misfortune of losing her memory and that the various enemies were deliberately trying to set her up as a sacrifice to turn Koros evil by forcing him AND her to think she was evil and thus force him to take an innocent life. Even the thought that the item shop girl was evil could have worked out better.

It's unfortunate, but while there were some good ideas, their implementation just ended up having them fall flat and what could have been a nice twist didn't really work out that way.