Iron Crypticle is a medieval-themed twin-stick shooter that evokes the look and feel of several classic games from yesteryear. Developers Tikipod and Confused Pelican even tried to stoke the memory of players by namechecking Smash TV, Gauntlet, and Super Ghouls N Ghosts in the game’s marketing. But while this kind of comparison can often be used to puff up a slight game, Iron Crypticle really does its best to resurrect that trio of titles.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One (Version Played)
Developer: Confused Pelican
Genre: Medieval Smash TV
Release Date: July 12, 2017
ESRB Rating: Teen
Unfortunately, this resemblance is both Iron Crypticle’s best hook and it’s biggest weakness. Like Smash TV, players are dropped into a dungeon packed with single-screen rooms and a boss at the end of each level. The game even eschews the analog sticks found on modern controllers to use the digital “8-Way Joystick” style originally employed by Midway in the early 90s.
Like Gauntlet, Iron Crypticle’s rooms are filled with the aesthetic trappings of a medieval castle and features a traditional cache of weapons made up of axes, bows, and magic. Similarly, the game’s art style will definitely remind you quite a bit of the characters from Capcom’s Super Ghouls N Ghosts.
Iron Crypticle (which is actually an expanded remake of the earlier Iron Fisticle) wears its inspirations on its sleeve, but it also blends those inspirations into a reasonably enjoyable twin-stick shooter. The room-to-room monsters are mostly generic, but there are a lot of them, and the big bosses at the end of each level are all well-designed and feature several different attack patterns. In that same vein, maneuvering around enemies with the “8-Way Joystick” is an annoyance I thought I left in the past, but it’s also interesting to see a developer stick so close to early 90s game design in an entirely new project.
Honestly, if I didn’t know better, you could probably tell me that Iron Crypticle was some long-forgotten arcade oddity from 1992 and I’d believe you.
So now that you know what to expect from Iron Crypticle, where does that leave the game itself? Basically, it all goes back to that “Unfortunately” way up there in paragraph two. Iron Crypticle is a decent enough twin-stick shooter, and blasting monsters with throwing axes and a gatling crossbow is always fun, but the game is also a bit on the bland side. It’s slower pace will definitely be a shock to players who’ve dipped back into Geometry Wars 3 or Enter the Gungeon lately, and the “8-Way Joystick” feels like a huge annoyance much more often than it resembles a nostalgic throwback.
Twin-stick shooter fans will enjoy Iron Crypticle more than most, but it is definitely a middle-of-the-road game that won’t stir up any strong feelings in most players.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Iron Crypticle was provided by Confused Pelican for the purposes of this review.