Rift of the Necrodancer, the surprise follow up to the rhythm roguelike Crypt of the Necrodancer, is still deep in development. However, the fine folks at Brace Yourself Games were kind enough to let InBetweenDrafts have a look at an Alpha build of the upcoming departure from the previous game during PAX East 2023. Fans of the original or Cadence of Hyrule might be nervous hearing just how different Rift will be – and it is – but my time with the preview build has me excited nonetheless.
Where the previous Necrodancer titles had series lead Cadence adventuring across combat laden zones, Rift of the Necrodancer instead takes from other rhythm games like Guitar Hero and Rhythm Heaven to put Cadence through very different struggles, both small and large. We were able to preview each gameplay mode that the game will use to tell this story: Rift Mode, Mini Game Mode, and Boss Battle mode.
Each mode can be engaged individually, but the overall story mode took us through each mode once. The titular Rift Mode is the Guitar Hero-esque, using directional keys to battle classic Crypt of the Necrodancer enemies as they crawl across the screen to the beat of the music – once again scored by Danny Baranowsky. This is the most direct mode in Rift of the Necrodancer, easy to pick up and a bit difficult to master. Enemies have different behaviors that must be read in real time that can be a bit tough to understand at first blush. Imagine if when you hit a note in Guitar Hero, it jumped back up the row, or moved to another fret. Going in fresh during our demo, it was shocking to see it happen. With just a tiny bit of practice though, I was able to keep pace pretty well and clear the Rift.
On the flip side, the Mini Games of Rift of the Necrodancer offered will vary much more wildly. The example we were given in the demo put Cadence in a yoga class led by a rival. I had to follow the directions indicated to perform different yoga poses, once again using only the direction keys. Where the Rift Mode focused on on sticking to a single song’s rhythm all the way, this yoga mini game would give audio cues to speed up the tempo to try to trip me and Cadence up. It’s very much filled with Rhythm Heaven and Elite Beat Agents energy, with a cute and soft aesthetic to its visuals.
That’s another notable aspect of Rift of the Necrodancer: the shifting perspectives and art designs. Crypt and Cadence of Hyrule maintained a visual and gameplay style throughout, but that goes out the window with Rift. Cadence has of course also had a redesign and into a modern punk-rock vibe while maintaining her original color scheme and specific accessories like her gloves and skull. Bosses and NPCs have the same modern vibe, but highlighting specific root colors makes them stand out versus the returning Necrodancer baddies.
Speaking of, Boss Mode was the final detail we got to preview. This was admittedly the trickiest part to delve into, as it was the most dynamic experience. Cadence has a Scott Pilgrim type showdown with a musical opponent, having to dodge their attacks and send her own via her new handy guitar. The boss in our demo was tricky but only because of the clever tells that encourage listening even closer to the music. The battle entered multiple stages that brought with it an increase in tempo. Once again, I felt it was possible to overcome with just a bit of practice – tough but fair.
Overall, I came away more excited for Rift of the Necrodancer. The game is still deep in the development stage so we do not have a target release date, but what we’ve been able to see so far, the development has been going great. You can wishlist the game now on Steam, and Brace Yourself Games is also targeting Mac and Linux releases for now.