Hello, fair readers, and happy Saturday! I have been playing an interesting little indie game, and battling with my new kitten, Saxton. Both are tests of my patience, and I’ll explain why in a moment.
*A bit of a disclosure first. I was given a copy of this game by the developer for review. This is no way affects my opinion of the game. I will be just as much of a jerk about the game as if I had bought it myself.*
Courier of the Crypts is a retro style puzzle game that puts more emphasis on sneaking than fighting. You play as The Courier, a young boy tasked with a mission to make a delivery to the crypt keeper. You make it to the crypt just fine, but quickly learn that he’s off doing whatever a crypt keeper does, and you must find him to complete your job. However, he must not be a very good crypt keeper; you quickly become trapped in the belly of the crypt thanks to a structural hiccup. Now you not only have to complete your task, but survive in the process.
The gameplay is fairly straightforward and plays well to those who enjoy challenging puzzles. You’re given a torch to fend off the ravenous spiders and complete various puzzles that require fire. You’re also given a few stones to fling at spiders, though that just makes them angry and chase you. You do find oil pots to set things on fire, but they’re few and far between. Again, the main emphasis of the game is to sneak and survive, not be Rambo of the Crypts. You only get three hearts, or hits, before you die. You walk around the different levels, figuring out the puzzles within, reading about the people who were alive in the crypts long ago, finding bits of loot, and, if you’re lucky, completing the level itself.
The hardest part is dodging enemies, which requires a lot of patience and the ability to restrain yourself from rushing through windows you probably should wait on. This is probably why I could not get very far in the game. I completed three levels. I played for hours, but I only completed three levels. I am just not the restrained person that this game demands. I am the clumsy golden retriever that knocks everything over with my excitement when I really need to be the Australian Shepherd with its immense ability to control its baser wants.
The art style for Courier of the Crypts is a strong pixeled retro style. It is very much in the vein of SNES 16-bit games, with a greater spectrum of color. What I really like about the art is that it does something a lot of indie retro games tend to drop the ball on: details. The recent flood of retro style games came with a lot of subpar art that didn’t really measure up to what old games looked like. The games we practically worship from the era had the challenge of hardware limitation, and the artists pushed as hard as they could to put as much detail in as possible. A lot of indie games tend to forget that and it feels lazy to me.
Back-in-my-days aside, that is not the case with Courier of the Crypts. There’s lots to admire in the art for Courier, whenever you get a chance to actually see it. The game is dark, and I don’t mean in a gory sense. You’re in a crypt, and a prominent mechanic depends on darkness, so it’s hard to see all of the effort put into the art assets. When you do get a chance to see it though, enjoy it. Don’t use the softening effect, and take in the pixel work, which is much harder than it’s given credit.
Now, every good game has its down sides, and Courier is no exception. For one, it is still in Steam’s Early Access. This is pretty much code for beta testing. Beta testing means there’s going to be bugs. I did run into a few while playing, but they’ve already been patched out. The creator is rather diligent about bugs and patching, which puts a bit of a silver lining on that. It’s greatly appreciated.
My other gripe has to do with the select button when I play with a controller. When you die in the game, you have to restart at the beginning or the last checkpoint you found. That’s to be expected in a game like this. However, if you accidently push the select button, it completely resets your progress on the level, checkpoints be damned. I’ve been playing a lot of Binding of Isaac and that button brings up the map, which I have a tendency to push when I get lost. Whenever I feel lost in Courier, I muscle memory over to the select button, resetting the level. I have reset my game a number of times for no good reason and it is absolutely infuriating.
So there you have it. If you’re in the market for a retro puzzle game, I recommend considering Courier of the Crypts. It is definitely a challenging game, with a lot of thought, effort, and secrets put into it. With an active creator, I imagine this creepy indie puzzle game only going to grow even more before it exits Early Access.