For the longest time now publishers and devs have decided that gamers no longer have friends in real life… our social gaming lives exist solely online. This has led to the downfall of “couch co-op”, with many multiplayer games being released completely lacking any local multiplayer feature. It’s time we say enough is enough! I still have buds over to play video games, real ones that stay too late and often drink too much (Hey Will! Sure, what kind of party would it be if you didn’t vomit everywhere?).
The developers of Crawl remember the yesteryear of “couch co-op” and they hear our cries. Like silent, brooding Batman-y types they’re the heroes local multiplayer deserves; and they’re paying an homage to classic, “Gauntlet” type dungeon crawlers. The concept is simple: you and up to three friends select a god to represent, or you can use bots that are highly competent. Each god represents different creatures you’ll take the form of during battle so choose wisely.
Once you’ve made your selections you’re then dropped into the first level of the dungeon. One player is the hero, the rest of you are ****bag spectres of death whose sole purpose is to thwart the crawler with traps and dark symbols through which you become corporeal monsters. First player to kill the crawler becomes one themselves, and the cycle continues. Be warned: Crawl has friendship killing potential the likes of which haven’t been seen since Mario Party, Mario Kart, and the little-known “Mario ****s Your Friend’s Mother”.
Throughout each dungeon you’ll gather gold to spend on upgrades and weapons. As you clear each section you’ll use vitae gathered to “evolve” your monsters, branching off into more powerful ranged, magic, and warrior types. Each level also features an ominous Stonehenge-like monument pulsating with blue magicka that unlocks the final boss once you or one of your former pals reach level ten. At that point you can choose to face the big baddie. You’ll get a cool battle strategy hint in the boss fountain room before entering the arena. Each of your friends – and bots – will possess the boss, working in tandem to stop you from winning by using a variety of attacks. Assuming you win it’s game over, you won! Assuming you lose another friend gets a shot. But each time you face the boss you do damage to the monument and if no one wins you will all game over.
Crawl is beautiful, stylish, and a blast to play. The monsters are really cool, the music is most excellently retro, and when playing against three friends – or AI bots with the difficulty increased – it is a challenge. The devs famously sent out a cool apology gif when they had to delay Crawl briefly, which to me is a good indicator that they will work with the community to continue expanding and polishing an already excellent core game.
Alas, I have one major gripe. It isn’t a deal breaker, not for me anyway. But at the moment there is no online multiplayer. Now I know what I said earlier. I miss the bygone days of local multiplayer and I’m happy to see it as an option. But I still have lots of friends I want to play this with online, ones that live far away in mythical places like California and Canada. I want to live in a world where I don’t have to choose. I want both, perhaps greedily. Hopefully we’ll see it implemented. At the moment there appears to be one final boss and only three deities to choose from. But what is there is highly polished and very fun. They’ll be adding more end bosses and deities throughout development. I also hope to see more variety in the dungeon layouts and color schemes. But as it is this is an excellent title. For ten bucks I easily, heartily recommend this.
Reviewer’s Note: “Mario ****s Your Friend’s Mother” probably doesn’t exist. Probably.