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Cryptmaster Review: I'd Like to Buy a Vowel Please

Platform reviewed: Steam

Price: $24.99

Rarely does a game captivate me to the point of awe, yet Cryptmaster achieves precisely that. Every element harmonizes perfectly, from its stunning artwork and immersive audio and voice performances to its ingenious puzzle mechanics and RPG features. Admittedly, the game made me feel dumb on multiple occasions, but such challenges are integral to its charm. Cryptmaster stands as a testament to the brilliance of indie game development, showcasing the power of innovation and the willingness to venture where triple-A studios might not dare. Its unique approach and craftsmanship embody the very essence of what makes indie games so great.

Cryptmaster follows the story of a necromancer known as…well… the Cryptmaster, who raised four deceased heroes from the dead to serve his dark purposes. However, due to their undead state, the heroes have lost all memory of their past lives. The only way to regain their memories is by exploring the world around them and interacting with their surroundings. What sets Cryptmaster apart is its immersive gameplay centered around word puzzles. For example, when opening chests, I needed to guess the contents inside based on clues from the Cryptmaster. This could involve me asking the Cryptmaster to sniff the item, taste it, or even try smashing it open. Correctly guessing the contents rewards me with letters that fill in blank spaces of words associated with each character. By successfully completing (sometimes guessing) these word puzzles, I unlocked memories for the characters, such as special attacks or recollections from their previous lives. Completing a word would unlock a new word for the character I needed to solve.

There were other word puzzles as well. Frequently, I encountered pillars of skulls that presented me with riddles. While some were quite direct, others posed a significant challenge. I must admit, I occasionally resorted to looking up answers online for the tougher puzzles. Solving these riddles rewarded me with extra letters and souls, another core component of the game that I'll delve into shortly. These unique puzzle word mechanics form the foundation of Cryptmaster's gameplay.

The battle system had me input the words I had learned to defeat the enemy. After using a word, I had to wait for each character's cool-down timer to expire before I could enter another word for attack for that particular character. The real challenge was remembering all the different attacks and buffs each character could execute. I frantically typed in words, trying to recall the most powerful attacks in the heat of the moment. The health of my characters and the enemies depended on the length of their names - my fighter, with four letters in his name, could withstand more damage than my wizard, who only had three letters in his name. I’ve never played a game with such a unique, immersive, and intense battle system before.

Every attack or spell in the game requires souls. These souls can be obtained by solving riddles, consuming bugs, or emerging victorious in a game of Whatever - the word card game integrated into the gameplay. I quickly became aware of the significance of collecting souls, and I made it a priority to constantly seek out new challenges and bugs to maintain a high soul count.

Throughout the game, I embarked on quests and collected items to progress to the next level. Despite the somewhat repetitive nature of these tasks, the game managed to keep me engaged by incorporating a variety of puzzles that not only boosted my soul count but revealed new letters to help me expand my characters' attacks. The artwork in the game, reminiscent of a homebrew Dungeons and Dragons setting, was captivating with its intricate black and white hatch artwork sketches. The attention to detail in both the world and the characters I encountered enhanced the overall experience.

The game's audio enhances the immersive experience. Early on, an essential aspect of the gameplay involves collecting souls by finding bugs, and listening for the sound of bugs crawling on walls is crucial for my hunts. The music, too, is well crafted. There were moments when, exploring an underground rat-inhabited town, the music's delightful tones, reminiscent of Animal Crossing, brought a smile to my face. Equally impressive is the voice acting. Whether it's the Cryptmaster humorously mocking my characters (or me as I struggle to solve word puzzles) or engaging in conversation with a giant toad proposing marriage, every character comes to life. This, combined with the game's clever writing, makes the voice acting a standout feature that enriches the overall experience.

Final Grade: A+

Cryptmaster embodies all that indie games aspire to be: distinct, creative, daring, culminating in a work of art. Fans of puzzle games and RPGs would do well not to overlook this gem. It's rare for a game to captivate my attention to the extent that I ponder its intricacies even when I'm not actively playing. Cryptmaster achieves just that, marking its place as one of those unforgettable gaming experiences.

Review code provided by Akupara Games



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