Crown Trick is a delightful indie title that debuted on Xbox on September 7th and also released onto Game Pass day one. It plays as a strategy, turn based game with rogue-like features. This game was developed by NExT Studios and published by Team17 Software and truly does outshine some of the other games I’ve reviewed more recently. We play as a young girl trapped in the Nightmare Realm fighting from room to room against randomly generated enemies. The goal of surviving each floor as it progressively gets harder is not so easy as the player first begins, but feels just as rewarding as any gamer would want. Let’s talk about the story before I delve into the combat system.
The story is delivered by text pop ups and there is no narration for any of the characters. As we gain control, we explore a locked room with a sentient golden crown sitting in a chair. His name is simply put, Crown, and informs our playable character of where she is. Her name is Elle, a young girl around the age of 8 to 12, and seems to be gifted with harnessing magic that was imbued upon her by our Crown friend. Crown is a snippy character that likes to push others away and typically can come off as condescending towards humans for being ‘primitive’. Elle is not alone and Crown explains that she is trapped in a Dream Realm, also known as, the Nightmare Realm. There are other creatures lurking about that wish to harm her. After hearing Crown’s opening story filled with information, they journey off together.
The tutorial is the only part of the game where certain items will spawn consistently and are set up to help teach combat to the player. During the tutorial we come across our first chest with a spear inside and are quickly taught by Crown that traps and enemies move only when Elle is moving to a new space. The perspective is isometric meaning it’s in full 3D but does have a fixed camera. So, the game essentially works off of grids in each room and time only moves when Elle moves. Elle can attack to advance time or click the Right stick to skip a turn. Each grid, or space, will matter as we unlock skills by defeating Familiars or find a new weapon with a different attack pattern. The Familiars are like mini bosses and once defeated can then be equipped to use. Using a Familiars’ skill will drain our Mana points, but refills fully after clearing a room of all the enemies. Crown also gave us the power to be able to teleport (Blink) a limited number of times before having to recharge. Being able to teleport can remove Elle from fatal damage since the enemies can cast attacks surrounding the player. Using the RT once a second Familiar has been defeated allows the player to switch skills. There are roughly 30 familiars in the game and will randomly spawn as Elle progresses down floor by floor.
There is a level select, but the player must clear a level entirely before moving on. If at any point in the game the player reaches 0 HP they will die and respawn back at the hub, The Hall of Reincarnation. At the hub is where we can find vendors located around the corners, but aren’t handed to the player. In order to unlock the vendor, they must be saved from a locked cage from within one of the levels. This means the more you play and save others from enemies, the more options of upgrades will be available in-between runs. Being able to upgrade our Elixirs to two per run is a huge aid in playing. There is also another really good beginning skill for each of the other merchants making gameplay easier. The banker vendor allows the player to retain at least 500 gold from an unsuccessful run and also saves a very small percentage of soul crystals (Currency for upgrades). Most of the skills have levels so can be upgraded to earn more rewards while playing or have extra upgradeable skills.
The normal fighting combat is quite fun when equipped with a decent weapon and using the area to your advantage. When looking at a new weapon dropped, it will describe the buffs it has and are uniquely named. I loved the Hammer of Doom weapon in the early game, but spears, hammers, and axes all are different in their attack patterns. Some will attack in a straight line forward, some in a 3 wide line to whichever direction Elle is facing, and others will attack all the spaces surrounding Elle. Combining weapons with skills can make Elle feel overpowered at times, but they must be earned each run. When starting a run, the game will provide two weapons to select one of and three Familiars to select one of to start the descent into a nightmare. As the player encounters new familiars and defeat them in combat, they are auto unlocked and we can choose to carry them for the rest of the run and may be available for new runs. Any weapons and Familiars can be switched during a run and more variety will unlock after beating the first main boss. There are staves, hammers, swords, spears, brass knuckles, and more. The combat utilizes the type of weapon in combination with magic skills granted by the Familiars. Enemies will have a shield and require so many hits to break and stunning for a few moves. There are also chain hits which increase damage if breaking multiple enemies’ shields. There are Relics which give a bonus of some kind to the player depending on what it may be, but do not carry between runs. Blueprints are in the game and allow the player to carry to the end of the level to unlock that particular weapon so it may appear in new runs. This levelling system encourages the player to keep trying, keep pushing further into the realm to try and finish a successful run. There are a couple bosses per each Realm and multiple floors to every realm. Familiars can weaken the player in the beginning, so many runs will be required to gain enough buffs to progress to new realms. There are 5 Realms and a total of 14 bosses spread across them and are fixed per each area. The familiars are random and are not counted as a true boss, but drop loot. Across each of these Realms are also dream journals to be found from chests or bosses and is the true method of delivering Elle’s story.
The Audio design for Crown Trick comes off as soft at times, but can sound grand during boss battles. It fits the bill for the game in tone. The game does have an original soundtrack that sounds excellent. The music never takes away from the gameplay and weapons and items all have unique sounds. The real bread and butter for this indie title is the graphic design.
The Visuals of Crown Trick are what piqued my interest. The characters are CG animations that appear 2D in our 3D grid rooms. The game’s opening is the teaser trailer and is more of a cartoon than what the game is all about, but it sums up the feeling for the game. All of the character designs look fantastic, albeit simplistic at times. The bosses are the ones they focused on and even the familiars are generally cool in design and battles. There’s a lot of effort put into their game’s design from NExT Studios which is enticing to continue to explore. It’s hard to judge this game on graphics or just audio given that it’s a simplistic design in isometric view, but executed fantastic gameplay design. The art is cute and similar to a children’s book such as, not giving arms to Elle but doing so for bosses. Comically it works and adds to her innocence. The game’s user interface also doesn’t seem to get in the way considering you choose to interact or ignore item pop ups. The menus also have helpful trackers for the achievements thankfully, considering they are all secret but aren’t hidden in the menu is helpful. Crown Trick will take many hours to complete and can be skill dependent and luck based, so time may vary vastly.
There’s so much more to Crown Trick than what I can describe, there’s a massive amount of substance to this game adding to its replay value. I could go on to explain the minor mechanics of the game such as; breakable boxes that drop coins, usable items that drop from enemies, environmental hazards such as barrels, challenging bosses with uniquely designed battles, special in game events, and large power stones that award buffs. I will save you the time and encourage you to try the game. Procedurally-generated rooms will change each playthrough. 14 bosses to work through and many skills to buy leaves the player playing more and more until their strong enough to beat the game. It truly is a challenge and the difficulty seems to scale in an enjoyable amount. Granted most bosses will require a couple attempts to beat since they are unique and have other enemies in their room helping, but feel rewarding when defeated.
Crown Trick warrants a play from all Roguelike or turn based games, a worthy challenge with a change in pace from a typical one life only game. A truly joyful movement-based game with amazing art and combat depth, try it out if you’re a part of Game Pass day one.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.