Crown Trick review: Bad dreams

by VR Lars
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Crown Trick plunges players into a fantastical, shifting maze that moves as they move, tackling the booming roguelike genre from a new angle. This is a turn based roguelike – well, sort of – with generous lashings of character and charm. With a hand-drawn visual style and some unique tricks up its sleeve, this is a promising prospect indeed, but does the game’s appeal go beyond its looks?

Crown Trick’s animation is spectacular, and easily the biggest selling point. It begins with an opening cinematic that really shows off how quirky and uniquely detailed it is, and that same style is lavished upon the game itself. It looks like a high-end kid’s cartoon in motion, with a soft, slightly dark theme that allows for a huge range of different enemy designs to come to life. Sometimes there’s so much going on at once it can be hard to see past all the different arena elements and visual effects firing off, which makes it surprisingly stressful for something turn-based.

Combat gets quite intense. Elle can power up with weapons of varying quality and relics that provide stat buffs. She can also acquire one-off use items like grenades for extra oomph in a fight. Defeating certain minibosses rewards her with the use of Familiars, which basically give you a rotation of magical skills to use. Most things have elemental strengths and weaknesses, and it doesn’t take long before the game starts to feel a little oversaturated.

This is partially because the player will have to meet Crown Trick in the middle to an extent. Roguelikes don’t normally give you so much room to plan your next move, so for me at least the first instinct was to charge in headfirst and hack away at all the little monsters bobbling around the stage. This might work early on, but the floor bosses have mechanics which quickly put an end to reckless tactics. They’ll really surprise you – I spent a lot of time dodging poison damage tiles the first boss laid down, getting frustrated at how little room I had to move in, until I realised I could burn them away with fire attacks.

Once you acclimatise, Crown Trick becomes deeply engaging. Turn-based is a simple way to explain how the game works, but it actually goes a little bit deeper than that. You can choose to skip your turn whilst standing in place, forcing the dungeon to move around you to better suit your attack. Elle can also Blink – teleporting through hazardous tiles or impassable objects – an action which doesn’t use a turn at all. Getting the hang of these fairly simple concepts allows you to manipulate the flow of combat, giving you a significant edge over even the most daunting enemies.

As you progress, you’ll free other characters from the maze, and they’ll set up shop in the hub world by the next time you die, selling upgrades that persist after death, improving the function of various aspects of play. Crown Trick will consistently reward you with a sense of progression, alleviating some of the frustration that roguelikes so often build through their -play-die-try again loop. Weapons and upgrades are liberally sprinkled throughout the maps, and there’s a serious variety to the arsenal which expands as you play. Pistols, lances, swords, rifles, axes, staffs – all with their own statistics, rarities and elemental affinities.

Crown Trick overall thoughts

No single Crown Trick run feels the same, and that’s exactly what these games need to achieve to be successful. There’s nothing more frustrating than repeating the same level ad nauseam, which is where many aspiring roguelikes falter. The amount of variety – weapons, skills, relic buffs – ensures that every death is followed by a fresh new challenge that allows adaptable players to thrive regardless of luck. It’s incredibly well presented, and presents just as many challenges as it does ways to overcome them. It may frustrate, it may feel a little bit overfilled at times, but it’s always good for a few hours of fun.

Crown Trick was developed by NeXt Studios and is now available on Steam/Nintendo Switch. You can find more of our game reviews here!

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