Charming, cutesy games flood the indie market, half because indie developers don’t have the resources to make super ultra high-resolution graphics that dip into the uncanny valley for some people, and the other half is because they’re usually the only people who want to make small, cutesy games. Greg Lobanov’s Coin Crypt is a wonderful example of the small, charming indie game that fills its own niche and has gameplay with a surprising amount of depth.
Having come out in late 2013, you probably either know about Coin Crypt or it’s slipped under your radar completely. For me, it was one of the many games I got in a bundle that I never bothered to play until I got bored and curious enough to try, and I was glad I did. Coin Crypt is a rogue-lite ‘card game’, except instead of cards everyone uses coins. Enemies? Coins. Merchants? Coins. All-powerful gods? Coins. Unlike most other games in this style, each coin is consumable and goes away after being used. This puts the player in a perpetual loop where not only do they have to quickly decide which coin they want to use out of the few they draw (the combat is real time in the same sense that Final Fantasy VII’s combat is), like if they should attack, block, apply an effect, et cetera, but it also makes praying and purchasing tie together in ways most games can’t manage.
This kind of system creates a lot of tricky scenarios. Do you risk holding onto a great many coins, lowering the likelihood that you draw good ones in combat, or do you try and dump all the useless coins on a shrine and hope that they don’t get annoyed by your offering? Perhaps you could pick up an item that gives you a really good effect, but you’d be left with hardly any coins if you bought it. It’s a deceptively well-structured system that encourages learning about your enemies, keeping track of what you have, and trying out new styles. Perhaps one build works well on one character, but there are plenty of characters to unlock that will work better with other kinds of loadouts.
Right from the start, you can tell that Coin Crypt has very little emphasis on story, though not exactly to its detriment. Every other word seemingly has ‘coin’ in it somewhere, making the intro very silly and childish. This is much preferred to the alternative, which would be the developer trying to shoe-horn in a deep, elaborate story into a game about using coins on skeletons and grandmas to defeat them in combat. It’s okay for a game to be just a game and not take itself too seriously, and Greg Lobanov seems to get that.
Visually, the game is pretty unique. Lower fidelity opens up more opportunities for stylization, and while Coin Crypt isn’t a visual or audio masterpiece, you can still definitely tell it apart from anything similar. Everything on the map is distinct while you bounce around, letting you see what types of enemies there are to face as well as how everything connects. In combat, you are very clearly presented with your options, what the enemy is doing, and how long it’s going to take you and the enemy to do what you want to do. The sounds are even more basic than the visuals, but nothing awful. Coin Crypt could easily be played with no sound, making it a nice, small ‘play for 20 minutes between classes’ kind of game.
Coin Crypt is not the kind of game you can spend hundreds of hours playing, learning about, and mastering; Slay the Spire fits that niche much better. Coin Crypt is a much smaller, simpler game that’s also much more approachable. If you’ve been looking for something cutesy and easy to pick up to fill some time, this wouldn’t be a bad investment.