By Alec Meer on June 7th, 2014 at 9:00 am.
Oh dear, I’m going to have to buy one of those Xbone pads now that they’re PC-friendly, aren’t I? Too often lately I’ve scowled at a game only to find that it improves immeasurably when played with a gamepad instead. Last week it was Watchunderscoredogs (still a bit dull though, innit?), this week it’s indie Metroid/Spelunky mash-up Crystal Catacombs. All ready to dismiss it, I was, as its core wall-jumping mechanic was a miserable and oft-fatal chore when hung around the space bar, but now I’m rather taken with its odd creatures and caverns and its gently punishing aRPG qualities.
There are perhaps a few too many insta-death events, given it doesn’t really have the arcade gogogo quality of Spelunky – this is a more measured, exploratory thing in which death-by-creature comes more slowly and you usually get plenty of time to plan your attacks. Hence, getting squashed by a rock’s just a bit of a downer, and in the game.
Its randomly-generated worlds are quite lovely to explore though, as strange temples flood Arctic or jungle settings with neon light and strange, misshapen, spectral creatures loom out of the ground. Still not sure about all the double-jumping, even with a gamepad, but the occasional random jetpack made vertical progress much more of a joy.
It’s difficult, and it’s supposed to be. I initially tried the one-life, roguelike-like survival mode, but there’s only so many sub-30 second defeats a tired and lazy man can endure before wanting an easier life. I think that’s one to come back to once I’ve better mastered the standard 5 lives mode and gained a better understanding of how enemies, items and levelling up works. There seems to be quite a lot of things tucked away in here, though it seems to lack the pristine balance of Spelunky – it’s rougher and more overtly platformy. Looks and sounds great though, and I suspect there’s a lot to mine from it yet.