Crawl Review

Screenshot from Crawl
Getting flashbacks to Diablo and the excessive use of town portals

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Powerhoof
  • Publisher: Powerhoof
  • Release Date: 11 Apr 2017
  • Time played: 2.5 hours

What is it

It's time to talk about Australian Crawl…

No, I'm not talking about that Aussie band from the 80s, but a game that was released last year on Steam called Crawl which was developed by Australian developer, Powerhoof. Powerhoof are a two-man indie games studio located in Melbourne and was formed in 2013 by artist/animator Barney Cumming and programmer David Lloyd. It turns out that their first serious project was Crawl which actually launched as Early Access back in 2014 but was eventually released as a full game in April 2017. They've worked on several smaller free titles (including a game where they collaborated with Jacob Janerka of Paradigm fame) and also released a commercial title called Regular Human Basketball in August this year.

Crawl is a retro, pixel art, dungeon crawler that's built with local multiplayer in mind for up to four players. What makes it different to other local multiplayer dungeon crawlers is that only one player at a time will be the "hero" (I say "hero" in double quotes since it's debatable whether someone who kills off the rest of their party could be considered one); the other three act as the "E" in "PvE" – they are the monsters and traps that will make the hero's journey through the dungeon a living hell.

How I got it

I did mention this game is an Australian game, right? Incidentally, that's also kind of the reason I bought this game too as it was part of a Humble Down Under Bundle and I managed to get this game in October last year along with Armello, Hacknet – Labyrinths, Hurtworld, Screencheat and The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.

Screenshot from Crawl of Gabe Newell
Is, it can't be.

What I like:

Variety of monsters

There is a whole variety of monsters to pick from and upgrade. If you're playing as one of the ghosts/monsters/traps that are an impediment to the Hero's progress, you'll gradually earn "wrath" points which you can spend on upgrading your monsters and making them more powerful. There are a whole bunch of weird and wonderful creatures such as slugs, spiders, gnomes, minotaurs, imps, skeletons and even dragons.

Creepy voiceover

At the beginning of each game, you'll listen to a particularly creepy voiceover that's skilfully delivered by Adrian Vaughan (who has provided his voice for other Australian games such as Armello and Paradigm).

Retro soundtrack

The soundtrack is a mix of chiptune music and creepy, baroque music, which works particularly well with Crawl, considering its retro, pixel art style, and the fact it's a dungeon crawler. Top stuff by Alex Yoder who surprisingly hasn't really scored for many other games besides this one.

PvP as PvE

The clever thing about this game is that from one angle, it's just player versus player, as one player is the Hero who has to go up against three of his mates, working together to bring the Hero down. However, by doing so, these three mates are also working like the "environment" in a traditional RPG sense where the player fights against all the monsters and traps that he or she may come across, except this time the monsters and traps are controlled by actual people, not the computer (well, if you've got four humans playing that is).

Ultimately though, the game is a competitive one since the winner is the one who manages to escape the dungeon first. So, all the alliances you'll forge in the interests of taking down the Hero, are all temporary.

Couch co-op

As mentioned, the game has couch co-op (at least when you're all playing as the monsters/traps) and it works pretty well on the Steam Link along with Logitech F710 controllers.

Steam Achievements and Trading Cards

The game has 45 Steam Achievements to earn and 6 trading cards to collect.


Yep, Gabe Newell makes an appearance in this game 😉.

Screenshot from Crawl
Um, should I go for the dude with horns or the one with horse legs?

What I dislike:

Information overload

Ghosts can spawn slimes to attack the Hero and these are generated by picking up ectoplasm. Consequently, the longer the Hero takes to purchase items whenever he's at a store, the more powerful the ghosts can become. Thankfully, slimes don't seem to be too fearsome a foe but it's kind of annoying when some items in the store require you to read about its effects in order to determine if it's a worthy investment: this is especially a disadvantage for new players although I suspect over time all players will know which items and weapons work best for them. It would be nice if there was some kind of bar that showed stats and effects at a glance.

Lack of information

On the other hand, the game sometimes lacks any substantial information such as when you're upgrading monsters. All it shows you is what your monster will look like after the upgrade so, again, if you're a new player, you'll be at a disadvantage as you'll be picking monsters on how cool they look instead of whether it fits your playstyle or not.

End of game screen

And while we're on the topic of lack of information, it would've been nice if instead of just how much XP you earned by the end of game, you actually had stats on how many different monster types you killed, or how many times you regained your humanity; Left 4 Dead and Vermintide are good examples of doing this right.

Score – 8/10 (Recommended)

Despite the rather lacklustre name, Crawl isn't your typical dungeon crawler: firstly, you're able to play this with mates on the couch for some local multiplayer and while one of you traipses around the dungeon as the Hero, the other three get to be the monsters you have to fight and the traps you have to dodge. Throw in a whole bunch of monsters to choose from, chilling voice acting and a top-notch soundtrack, and there's a lot to like about this game. Crawl does have minor drawbacks which makes the game a bit difficult for newcomers, but they aren't serious enough to prevent me from recommending this game.

Is the game worth $14.99 USD?: Yes, that's just over $20 AUD for a game that has lots of replay, provided you're able to get a bunch of friends to come over for some couch co-op since that's where it's really at (although you can now apparently play with friends online using a game streaming service called Parsec).

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[ LINK: Official Crawl Website ]