Crown Trick Review
Elle was an average kid until she got sucked into the realm of nightmares, aptly named the Nightmare Realm. Sorely confused and frightened, she would have surely been eaten by a slime pup had the Guardian of Nightmares not helped her out. Who is the Guardian? It’s actually a talking crown on her head, the one with an eyeball. He reasons that although there may not be an immediate way out of the Nightmare Realm for her, there is a man called Duke Vlad stirring up trouble for both the realm and Elle’s world who is likely the cause for her would-be demise. And so, our goal in Crown Trick is to aid Elle in confronting the Duke, traipsing through a multi-floored dungeon along the way.
A patient dungeon
To get to the Duke, you’ll have to a labyrinth that changes its layout with every run. Of course, you won’t be able to treat the path to the next flight of stairs as if it was a walk in the park; most rooms along the way will be teeming with monsters you’ll have to do battle with. But when you’re walking around, you’ll quickly realize you’re moving along a grid, accentuated by the tile pattern every floor seems to have, regardless of its theme. Both you and the denizens of the dungeon can only move in cardinal directions, no diagonals. But while the monsters can choose where to move, they cannot choose when to move. When you’re standing still, time almost stops. Archers will keep their arrows nocked, marauders will hold their clubs in place, and your avian foes will keep their beaks right where you can see them. Only when you take a step will they also take a step.
Performing attacks work the same way as moving does, too. When you strike at something, even if it’s the air, that’s a cue for your opponent to either move closer or retaliate in kind. While every enemy is capable of melee attacks, most will attempt to use their special attack which you can often guess what it is by their visual appearance (witches will cast spells, mounted knights will charge at you, etc.). Special attacks sometimes take multiple turns for an enemy to fully charge up, and the floor tiles will display the amount of turns left before it is hit by the attack, so dodging an individual special often isn’t a problem. But when the room has five or more monsters all chasing you down, it can get hectic when they all try to use their special at the same time, and the floor ends up looking like a game of Minesweeper.
Luckily, you got a fancy pair of law-defying boots to help you out! You have a limited amount of uses per room, but when you do use it, you have the ability to “blink” to any tile within a sizeable radius. Most importantly, blinking doesn’t count as a move, meaning all the monsters will be standing at the exact same place they were at. Blinking’s essential to getting out of a hairy situation like a three tile wide special attack or a bunch of spiders ganging up on you. It’s a unique aspect of Crown Trick and prevents you from taking on an unavoidable hit while discouraging you from relying on it due to having only a few uses per encounter.
Swing low, aim high
Ultimately, your goal in combat is to slay whatever monsters the room you enter has in store, but the most vital mechanic to understand in doing this is the break mechanic. Every monster has a defined amount of guard points. When you hit them, you take them down a point, and when their points reach zero, they become stunned and take more damage. Attacking enemies during certain moments such as charging up their special will break even more guard points, and if you break the guards of multiple enemies at once, you will fill up a break gauge that will cause you deal even more damage than you normally do. With this system, you’re incentivized to not just swing wildly at your enemy the first chance you get; waiting for an opportunity to strike, observing what every monster in the room is about to do, and timing your attacks to break as many enemies as possible is the way to go, treating each encounter as a puzzle you can solve rather than brute-forcing your way out.
In combat, you got two different kinds of weapons: melee and ranged. Melee includes swords, axes, and spears while ranged includes rifles, pistols, and shotguns. Every individual weapon has their own stats for damage, critical chance, and special effects, but the type of weapon it is defines the radius in which your weapon will deal damage to. An attack with an axe will swing at every tile adjacent to you while the rifle will shoot in a straight line, hurting the first enemy who makes contact with your bullet. There’s plenty of different weapons per type to choose from, but the most interesting weapons are those with a unique special effect. Oftentimes, the special effect of a weapon will just be a percentage increase to your critical chance, or immunity to a certain status effect, but some weapons have an effect that changes the way you’ll approach a fight. With the Royal Rifle, you’ll do more damage the further an enemy is. With the Time Piercer, your attacks don’t immediately do damage, but will cause an explosion covering a small radius after one turn. It’s cool to see that using a different gun isn’t just a different set of stats; they may make you play more aggressively or more passively.
You won’t be relying solely on your weapon, though; you can bring along familiars that provide skills you can use to give yourself an advantage over any fight. To get a familiar, you’ll have to fight one of the floor’s minibosses, like a fire dragon or a poisonous octopus. Once you defeat them, however, you can select them as a familiar and take advantage of their abilities. The skills you can use are related to their moveset when you fought them, especially in terms of elemental differences. You can have up to two familiars at once, and you won’t have to fight them again in order to use them again in another run, so feel free to try out a new familiar instead of sticking to only one or two that you’re comfortable with.
Crown Trick’s been a fun game to play. It follows a typical roguelike formula with its procedural generation, the need to collect upgrades during a run, and so on. I like the cute design of the characters and monsters; part of what made the ranged weapons like the rifle fun to play for me is that Elle giggles every time you reload. And it’s nice to play a roguelike the way they were originally: having enemies only move when you do, giving you time to think before every action. The biggest issue I had was that the UI would sometimes block a critical piece of information like an enemy’s guard point indicator or the indicator for when a special will land on a tile, but they don’t get in the way too often, fortunately. If you’re into the roguelike genre and don’t mind having taking a methodical approach to fights, then you just might like Crown Trick. Do beware the gacha machines, however; you’re not gonna be getting that prize, I guarantee you.
Crown Trick can be purchased on Steam here.