Castle Crashers Review
September 6, 2008 by Jereme Puik
We’ve had quite an entertaining month this week as the “Summer of the Arcade” comes to a close. There was everything from a sequel (Galaga Legions) to a remake (Bionic Commando: Rearmed) to two full blown original creations (Braid and Castle Crashers). The last two of these being the subject of debate as to whether they were worth the 1200 MS point’s price tag or 15 bucks, but we’ll save that for another article all together. Castle Crashers is a newly developed coin-op hack n’ slash classic from The Behemoth, who were previously responsible for the recreated flash game Alien Hominid, which is also available on Xbox Live Arcade. If there was anything keeping Castle Crashers from being completely out of the loop, it would be the flaws that could annoy just about anyone. Despite this it’s still an enjoyable experience that brings us back to the days of old.
Rescue the Princess!
Embark on a journey that will see you specially tasked by the king to recapture a stolen crystal and rescue 4 damsels in distress. Choose one of 4 knights with varying colors and characteristics and travel through the many lands to complete your mission. Each of these knights carries a melee weapon which allows for light and heavy attacks activated by the X and Y buttons respectively. Another advantage to your arsenal is the magical element that all depends on your chosen knight and how experienced you are to make it effective. There are magical attacks ranging from fire, poison, ice and even lightening spells that can make for an easier time on the battlefield. If you haven’t guessed already, Castle Crashers has an RPG element mixed into this classic coin-op adventure.
Beneath the simple gameplay exterior lays a core button combination system that grows with your leveling throughout the game. Each combination proves useful in its own ways and later in the game you will realize that these combinations will be more than helpful in your quest. These attacks range from a nice mid-air spinning attack and more. There are many ways for one to completely wipe the floor against the countless knights and monsters headed your way. Castle Crashers offers the kind of strategic balance that should give you the opportunity to keep things fresh instead of the continuous hack and slash. You can charge up that magic to fire out projectiles to keep enemies at bay while you keep track of the ones immediately in front of you. There are many ways to finish the fight. Unfortunately, as much fun as it is to be strategic, it has its drawbacks. You need to be on the same ground as your enemy in order to execute your attack and if you’re the slightest bit off, you’re left open for a nice cheap shot.
The hit count gets a bit ridiculous at times especially when you encounter boss areas or you have virtually an entire army to fend off. You could be fighting off as many enemies as possible at your own pace, but those same monsters or knights have just one edge against you. This is where the difficulty curve gets a bit frustrating. Sometimes you’ll encounter small groups of enemies while others there will be an entire horde of them continuously flying at you with no stopping them. There is no penalty for death save for having to restart the level over. You keep your stats and the current level you last left off with. Let’s not forget the crude humor and always welcomed addition of blood that earned this title a T for Teen rating. Castle Crashers, minus the few drawbacks, is more then worthwhile for even the casual gamer at heart.
There are quite a few things to keep you from playing the single player campaign. Multiplayer is a big draw here and co-op is really suggested in this regard. The single player campaign is fun to play, but an even better time with good friends around. There is an online versus system, or Arena mode as it’s called, which is broken more or less, considering you get matched up against over-powering opponents. However, at this year’s PAX (Penny Arcade Expo), a patch was announced and will be released soon that will supposedly cover and fix this problem. Other modes include an “Insane Mode” which after beating the game on normal, you can try your hand at beating it again, as insane as that sounds. This 2D side-scrolling adventure game is sure to become a classic on Xbox Live Arcade. Its replayability is high almost through the roof.
The hand-drawn 2D artwork in this game has really won me over. We haven’t had classic artistry since Okami was released. I mean it’s top-notch and each knight and enemy has their own unique identity. The small touches bring Castle Crashers in full circle and leave us with a breathtaking view. I may be a little over the top when saying that, but I really think we need more games that tailor to this 2d plane. Yes, we have the 2d/3d realm so to speak, but I’m talking about pure 2d hand-drawn artwork that is your blood and sweat. The artwork in Castle Crashers really shows that the developers, The Behemoth, really put everything they could into this title and they made something special.
A rich vibrant soundtrack gives the game life and will certainly win some over just on that alone. There is virtually no voice acting involved unless you count the groans and grunts of the little animals you pass by along with the big bosses you face through each level. There is not much to say about the sound other that it’s about as good as you’re going to get out of a Live Arcade title.
I would highly recommend this title on the co-op features alone. While matchmaking in the multiplayer online may be broken for the time being, there is a patch coming soon that should fix that problem, so you shouldn’t be too discourage from going online. It’s more worth it to have a group of friends around you playing on the same console than online mostly because it’s just a good time no matter how old you are. Castle Crashers appeals to gamers and their parents. You don’t have to worry; blood can be filtered and turned off in the games option menu in case you’re nervous about letting your child play such a game. All in all, the multiplayer is where Castle Crashers shines the most along with its well meshed RPG elements.
Don’t be turned off by the difficulty of Castle Crashers, it becomes worth it to beat it once you’re higher leveled and you can run around beating the single player campaign single handedly instead of passing it to your friends because you keep getting frustrated. The 1200 point tag is well placed and should be no problem for anyone looking for an adventure title to dig their teeth into. If you dig RPG elements along with the classic coin-ops of the past, don’t leave out Castle Crashers from your mind. If you’re skeptical, always download the demo before buying. It will take out a good chunk of your points, but if you like it, that shouldn’t be a problem. Castle Crashers is well worth the investment.