Charming aesthetic and vibrantly cute monsters meet turn based roguelike with fairly punishing losses in Crown Trick. As with any game of its ilk, this is not for the easily frustrated, but there are many elements that combine to create an enjoyable experience.
It’s quite easy to see and hear the surface value of Crown Trick, the models pop out and you can tell what an elemental effect or spell does at a glance without any knowledge of the game. There is a lot of information to track in this game, and the visuals do a great job in that regard albeit with some foreground blockage like large monsters hiding what’s happening in the tile behind them. Like a colourful picture book given life, it would be easy to sell the game on a glance yet the gameplay loop doesn’t disappoint either.
There is some ability to build up passives and bonuses after each death, such as being able to take gold into a new run, having new items drop, buffing your healing potion or increasing rare drop rates. However, this is definitely a bit of a grind to get everything, and since the currency you spend on these permanent boosts is lost each new run you are not only in for a long grind, but a grind which requires you to do numerous successful runs, where failures will net you nothing but lost time- which will likely prove to be the key pain point for most players.
Each dungeon has a theme to it, which influences traps, monster types and certain buffs. For example, one of the dungeons is mech themed and gives you the infinity gauntlet which allows you to cast a lightning spell. Each time you reach an enhancement station you can add a new stone, the first of which will have low power and the final will be greatly boosted. For example, if you add the time stone immediately you’ll reduce the cooldown from seven kills to six, but if you do the time stone last it’ll be only two kills.
Aside from some fairly predictable elements though, most of the game is highly randomized, with a large selection of traps and foes, environmental challenges, events and mini bosses. In terms of player power, there are passive bonuses, relics which give some sort of trait or buff, temporary buffs and the ability to give or receive various elemental debuffs and crowd control effects, such as poisons or stuns. There is also a break system for enemies: after a certain number of attacks they are stunned making them safe to assault, which is vital for minimizing your damage taken as you get only two healing uses per floor and other ways to mitigate damage tend to be rare.
You have charges of a short range teleport which is vital for avoiding aoes, getting near foes while they cast to take advantage of doubling break damage, and there are numerous weapons with their own strengths and drawbacks, as well as the ability to acquire the spells of two defeated minibosses. A combination of using the environment, your weapon, teleportation and magic is generally needed to clear each floor, and each run can feel vastly different.
For example, on one run I was near death when I found a shrine which gave me a debuff that caused my healing items to damage me, and poison to heal me. This nearly proved my undoing, but the boss happened to be one which creates poison tiles constantly, turning that fight into an utter joke. Another time a shrine reduced my max health to one, rendering my healing items useless, but gave me a shield with no time limit. This generally would be quite punishing, but I had another relic which gave a small amount of shield every time I hit an enemy for one round- combined, that small amount of shield being permanent and stacking made for a very powerful combination.
That said, there is a downside to so much variety. It’s very difficult to focus on one thing, and even more rare to get great combinations like that. As a result, most runs I found myself being a jack of all traits, with a variety of boosts with minimal synergy- as per the example, any situation where I hadn’t gotten a lucky relic which gave me the ability to generate temporary shielding would have turned that permanent shielding buff from something very powerful into something that would quickly ruin the run.
Overall, at a certain time as often happens with these types of games, I hit a point where I was only making progress with such rare synergies, and was more often stalled by bad luck. To some, that is what makes the game great, and for the first dozen hours the game is easy enough to progress in that most should get their money’s worth.
If you’re looking for an entry level roguelike, this one is easy to pick up and enjoy the random gameplay loop. If you want something to just sink a bit of time into on occasion this is a great choice for the price. There are few negatives to the game, though several things I can see someone either disliking or loving based on their playstyle- Crown Trick is one I’d rank high compared to most others in the genre and it does so without any major gimmicks.