A chill crept into the air as the last of the torches sputtered and died. In the catacombs around me, I heard the chittering and scratching of dozens of spiders. With my legacy safely hidden in the library behind me, I continued stacking rocks across the entrance, hoping to thwart the monsters from destroying my final message to whomever came next. Perhaps they would not make the same mistakes we had.
Courier of the Crypts opens in a nightmare where our protagonist finds himself strapped to an altar, about to be sacrificed in a deep crypt full of cultists. Understandably, he wakes in a cold sweat, more than relieved to find himself comfortably resting in a hammock outside his place of employment. But his joy is short-lived when his boss tells him his next assignment is to the old crypt museum a few days ride from the cottage.
It doesn’t take long before our hero finds himself trapped in a crypt eerily similar to the one from his dream. And what’s that chanting sound coming from deep within the darkness? Armed with only his trusty torch, the courier delves deeper, hoping to shed some light on the mysteries of the crypt.
During my first level in the crypt, I was struck by the sense of dread I felt for the main character. This is a top-down, pixel puzzle game… why was I so on edge? Then it struck me, the torch the courier carries is frequently the only light on the map and it barely illuminates a few feet around him. Each level’s artwork is stunning to uncover as you move about and shine your torch into the dark corners. The level of detail is exquisite, but the atmosphere created by the lighting mechanic is far and away the best thing about the game. It feels eerily claustrophobic and terrifying; as a crypt should. Emberheart Games outdid themselves on this key mechanic.
Besides exploring, our main character is tasked with solving puzzles, fixing machines, and battling monsters (mostly spiders) in his quest to determine what happened in these crypts. The puzzle design is good; not too much is given away while just enough direction is given to help avoid frustration. I died more often than I cared to admit at first, but there are checkpoints throughout the levels so you don’t lose all your progress. This addition was brought about in the last update, which shows that the developer really listens to feedback from the people playing the game in early access.
If this game sounds interesting to you, know that it is in early access. Sometimes this means a complete game is looking to work out some bugs, while other times it means a well-polished game needs more content added to call it finished. Courier of the Crypts is somewhere in between, with more content promised after the developers get feedback on what they have so far. But based on what I saw in my time with the game, Emberheart has a winning combination and I can’t wait to see what the full release looks like.