Cryptark is a 2D roguelike game with shmup elements and a Matrix-like hud, where you board alien ships and blow stuff up. It’s also pretty damn great! From the visuals, to the gameplay, to the voice acting and sounds, everything is really well done, and surprisingly so for a roguelike that primarily depends on the gameplay loop.
You play the role of a privateer, and take on contracts to board alien vessels. The main goal is to destroy the ship’s central System Core, but attaining it will take careful planning and preparation. You pick your loadout, listen to the mission briefing and board the alien ship. The briefing itself is pretty well presented, and the guy speaking over comms has some really cool lip-syncing going on and it looks great. Once on board the ship, ammo and other items have to be managed and picked up along the way. If you die, you restart the whole thing in classic roguelike fashion.
During loadout selection, depending on how much money you have in your bank, you can pick the amount of health, shield and ammo you begin with. As you unlock more items, you can change the loadouts accordingly The interface during this time looks like that of an old computer with blocky green fonts and had a strong Matrix vibe to it, which I really liked. Once you get to the real gameplay though, the hud elements are quite minimal, with health and ammo counter taking priority. The controls are similar to that of a twin stick shooter, with many additional abilities to change up the gameplay.
To destroy the core, you need to take out shields and other security systems protecting it. Along the way you come across moving robots and wall mounted turrets. The view you have is top down, and you can see ahead and around you to see items of interest along the way. Managing when to attack or fall back is key, since the game is quite difficult and can get overwhelming really fast if you are not careful. You can fire weapons, throw grenades and even dash into enemies. The gameplay is really tight, and you always have control over what you are doing. Death never felt cheap and coming back for another fight is always compelling.
Going in, you’ll need to know where you plan to begin from. Some of the shields protecting the Core are locked behind doors, so you’ll have to disable the doors before you can attack the shields, and then you go on to attack the core. This type of planning was really enjoyable, and the procedural generation kept things fresh over time.
The game has a very interesting look to it – the UI is clean and very techy and the alien ships feel foreboding and really alien. Combat is flashy and explosions looks great with some great particle effects to boot.
The campaign missions have a timer to them, but they were generous enough. The rogue mode lets you loose, but without any money or items at the start. You have to pick up items along the way and keep changing weapons as you run out of ammo. This forced me to try new weapons I hadn’t spent much time with in the campaign, and I actually enjoyed it a lot.
While the story is not all that deep, the way it’s presented is really good. Guys over comms have unique personalities and are voice acted really well, and adds a lot to the game’s overall appeal.
Overall, Cryptark is a really enjoyable roguelike shooter, with challenging fights that require careful planning and a clever approach if you are to succeed. But even when you fail, it’s easy to get right back in to fight again. There’s a ton of content here to keep you hooked for hours.
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