By – Jarrett Riddle

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Playing Kickstarter-funded games is always a treat for me. Just knowing that the production involves a dedicated team who listened to backers and fulfilled promises as best they could adds a certain admirable quality that’s lacking in more mainstream titles. Crayon Chronicles by Outer Grid Games went through this very process, managing to raise over $7,000 from people who were interested in the concept. The result is a fun, cartoonish roguelike that, while not incredibly long, will still keep you hooked with randomly generated maps and kooky creatures to thwart.

The story of Crayon Chronicles is quite simple, and serves mostly as a reason to go around hitting and collecting things. After choosing your gender, you can create and customize the appearance of your three friends whom you’ll be saving from various evil-doers later on. The protagonist will be exploring and fighting in several multi-layered locations such as a library and swamp lands. Upon arrival at each stage, a conversation opens with the main quest giver. These are all light-hearted in nature, and usually involve your character screaming their catchphrase that you created for them during character creation. Along with the primary goal, there are optional side areas with their own tasks that offer opportunities for more experience and loot.

So for your first adventure, you choose the library, tasked with collecting overdue books. This won’t be as easy as searching the shelves, though, as numerous creatures fill the halls of the once-peaceful establishment. Moving one square at a time, your character must defeat such cutely-named monsters as squeaking Illiter-Rats and buzzing ArcHives. To do this, you must find various weapons and armor to suit your needs. Stats include life, power, dodge, aim, and luck.

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While most of these are self-explanatory, luck plays a key role in combat as it substantially increases the likelihood of critical hits. The base number of these can be upgraded with each level gained. Depending on where you want to spend upgrade points, different sets of gear will be essential to your survival. For example, while a two-handed warhammer combined with a high power stat may put the hurt on foes, you won’t be able to carry a shield and thus, can’t block attacks. All of the attributes play a vital role, and are pretty well balanced so different builds can be experimented with.

Too weak to battle the headless zombies and wiry wyverns up close? Have no fear, as many different types of ranged weaponry can be found among the dungeons. These include ammo-fueled launchers like a slingshot or bow and arrow, and disposable thrown items such as moldy bricks that target a single enemy. Javelins can pierce through multiple opponents in a line, and smoke bombs will reduce the aim of a group. If your stats aren’t looking so hot, various funny faces can be found that, when used, will increase your abilities or reduce those of the monsters around you.

Both the faces and the permanent ranged weapons are replenished upon killing a certain amount of creatures, with higher-tier gear requiring more destruction. Food can be found and eaten as well that restores life, so keeping some spaghetti on hand can be a life saver in rough situations.

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Don’t let the kid-friendly graphics fool you into thinking this game will be a cakewalk. Crayon Chronicles stays true to traditional roguelikes with permadeath, stat-analyzing, and a tough challenge. Some playthroughs will be kind to you, providing good weapons and easy enemies from the get-go. Other times, however, you’ll barely make it three rooms into the library before having to run away screaming into the nearest undiscovered room in hopes of gaining health back. Real-life luck seems to play a major part in success. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have to use tactics and weigh the pros and cons of equipment, but getting great gear at the beginning definitely helps.

With a name like Crayon Chronicles, one would possibly expect an art style reminiscent of the Home Movie or Dr. Katz cartoons. In that regard, I was a little let down with the overall look of the game. While conversation scenes, the HUD, and some set pieces fit this description adequately, I feel that the in-game protagonist, enemies, and interiors look more like they were made in Flash than by a child with a pack of Crayolas. Animation is lacking as well, being minimal one-frame sprite changes in melee fights and non-existent while walking and firing long-range weapons. While this may have been an intentional choice to appeal to old-school crowds, I’ve played similar games from the 90s that featured more movement.

With the basic, cardboard-cutout theme of the graphics, a few more action animations would help the overall design. All negativity aside, the game features pleasant, colorful art that should appeal to both kids and adults. Items and enemies look just as their names suggest, and there’s a nice variety of each. While the resolution can’t be changed, the option is given for windowed and full-screen. Everything scales nicely to my 1920×1080 setting, and never suffers from slowdown.

Controls are super easy to learn. The mouse and both buttons are used to navigate and pick up items, while hotkeys for inventory use are clearly labeled at all times. As long as your health is above danger levels and no monsters are immediately present, the left mouse button can be held down to quickly traverse areas. Music and sound effects fit the mood of the game, with neither ever truly standing out nor becoming annoying. Background tunes are mostly soft, easy-going rhythms except when the player is in critical condition, at which point a frantic anthem plays. All the familiar hi-yahs, grunts, and groans of combat are present as well.

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Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

Crayon Chronicles knows what it is: a casual, addictive adventure that does what it sets out for very well. At a modest $3.99, a fun and challenging roguelike can be had that is both easy to learn and family-friendly.  I recommend this game to anyone who would fancy beating a skeleton with a yard stick.

Crayon Chronicles Technical Summary:

Crayon Chronicles Review

  • Time Played – 12 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 1920×1080
  • Bugs/Crashes Encountered – No
  • DRM – Steam, Offline One-Time Key Validation
  • System Specs – 3.7 GHz AMD A10-6700, 768MB Radeon 8670D, 8GB RAM
  • Control Scheme – M/KB
  • Saved Game Location – SteamApps\common\Crayon Chronicles
  • Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – Steam, Desura, Shiny Loot
  • Demo – Yes
  • Version – 1.1.0 S
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