Crawl is a game with a twist. Not a twist through storytelling (he was their dad all along) but a twist through a gameplay mechanic, and one – if you’re like this reviewer who doesn’t read up on games (until I’m reviewing them that is) – that will cause you to drop your cup and shout out ‘Keyzer Soze’.
Developed by Australian developer Powerhoof, Crawl has existed as a game since 2014 when it was released through Steam’s Early Access program before finding its way onto PS4 and XBOX One in April 2017. It was around this time that the early access program was having a few problems with a lot of trash games being released on the service. Crawl, thankfully enough, ‘crawled’ out of the muck and into the light, which is here on Nintendo Switch a platform that seems perfect for its rogue-like multiplayer gameplay.
Praised on its release in 2014 for its ingenious premise, Crawl has not lost any of that addictive gameplay whether it be with 3 other players or the AI. An asymmetrical multiplayer game, Crawl has your trudging through randomly generated dungeons fighting off monsters and dodging cunning traps, all of which are brought into the game by your foes. As you progress through the dungeon as the human, your character levels up giving you access to stronger weapons, attacks, and spells. However, as you progress, so do your enemies. Your XP is their wrath; wrath that can be used to upgrade the devious beasts that they use to hinder your progress.
Every hit from an enemy reduces your health gauge and on death, it’s time to visit the spirit realm. It’s this twist (or spin) on the gameplay that means death is not the end and when playing against friends, you can be the reason why they don’t make it to the next level. Expect friendships to be broken and formed in seconds as you jump from ‘going it alone’ to a ‘gang of three’ to take down the sole survivor. Controlling the monsters follows the same control scheme as the hero with light attacks mapped to the ‘a’ button and heavy attacks to the ‘b’. It makes sure Crawl stays as a pickup and play title.
When playing with friends, the enemies are only as good as their aim, however, when playing against the AI, Crawl can be punishing especially when tackling the bosses for the first time. AI characters know exactly what they are up against so know how to forge ahead. Expect to grind to get your first victory but when it comes, it will be worth it.
This is a beautiful spin on the dungeon crawling, Gauntlet-esque gameplay of old combining asymmetrical multiplayer with perfect portability that makes Crawl a great addition to your Switch library. It’s peak couch co-op and a game that will fully utilise every spare spot on your four-seater.
Crawl is currently retailing for $14.99 on the Nintendo eShop.