There are some games that make their way into our brains even when we aren’t playing them. For instance, while playing through an intense game (something like God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man or currently Ghost of Tsushima) I find myself at work counting down the hours until I could finally go home and jump back into that world. A game is very powerful when you think about playing it any time you aren’t playing it. As I kid, there were some games that made me wake up early just to play before school.
Recently, something new happened with a game that I’d been playing possibly a bit too much. A game that I was playing (on my Nintendo Switch) infiltrated my dream world. This game was Crypt of the Necrodancer (The original, not Cadence of Hyrule — not yet at least). I was playing this game mostly right before bed, which could have contributed to the whole dream takeover thing since it was the last thing I consumed before heading to dreamland.
Crypt of the Necrodancer is a roguelike dungeon exploration rhythm game. It consists of a few different ever-changing dungeons that you must conquer to beat the game (with a few other modes included). Each time you die (and you will die many, many times) you restart that dungeon over from the beginning. Also, your character can only move to the beat of the music. The same is true for your opponents. Over time you will recognize your opponent’s patterns in order to defeat them. So, the more and more you play each dungeon, the more familiar you become with how to win. Each time you move into a new dungeon you’ll find new enemies with new patterns.
Another reason this game infiltrated my dreams is that it is definitely a “one more time” type of game (meaning you tell yourself you’ll give it one more try, but you actually end up taking 15-20 more attempts until you finally decide your brain needs a break and it’s time to move on). I found my eyes closing some nights, but I would continue to try over and over again. There’s always a breaking point though. A point where you can’t do anything right, you keep getting killed by simple enemies, and it’s finally time to call it quits and go to bed.
The “one more time” thing also happens to me whenever I start playing Super Meat Boy again, which I recently jumped back into so I could beat the first game before moving onto Super Meat Boy Forever. Most Super Meat Boy levels should take about 10 seconds or less to beat, the problem is the brutality of each level and the many, many attempts. It’s very satisfying once you finally beat a level to watch all your attempts as one video like these two below.
Back to Crypt of the Necrodancer infiltrating my dreams. At the breaking point, you may physically stop playing the game but your brain keeps working out solutions to beat the dungeon and the enemies that live there. For instance, the dragon is one boss monster that killed me almost every time I faced it. In my dreams, I found a way to defeat the dragon and move on (and I finally did in real life too).
Patience is the main thing in this game (and with most games I have learned over the years). It’s not about moving quickly or hitting enemies on each beat. It’s about moving around, avoiding enemy attacks and timing your strikes. I always enjoyed running and gunning and button mashing my way through most games. With some of my favorite recent games (God of War, Ghost of Tsushima, Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order and even Marvel’s Spider-Man) I’ve learned to use parries, dodges and blocks in order to get better strikes on my enemies.
I’m pretty sure The Binding of Isaac (also from the creator of Super Meat Boy) has infiltrated my dreams, although I have beat that game (many times). I just enjoy playing it over and over again. And it may be one of the games I have the most hours in (if you tally my hours on all platforms). I guess there’s something about games with randomly generated dungeons that gets my brain going once I’m done playing.
I haven’t had any games infiltrate my dreams since Crypt of the Necrodancer. Writing this post made me think of a game that didn’t make it into my dreams as a kid, but was based on playing through Bart Simpson’s dreamworld — The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare. I do remember playing many hours of this game and I could even hear the sounds from the game when looking up images. I hope I still own this game in my SNES collection, so I can pop it back in for some new Old School Game Replay articles I’ve been thinking of writing.
That’s all for now, sweet dreams…