Castle Crashers (XBLA)

By Steven Marsh

Published on Monday, September 15, 2008

Graphics: 10.00
Sound: 9.00
Gameplay: 10.00
Replays: 10.00
Gamelength: 10.00

The Behemoth’s highly anticipated second game, “Castle Crashers” is finally here and it’s definitely one of the top reasons to own an Xbox 360 right now.

Anyone who’s ever played a classic beat’em up at a local arcade and lived to tell the tale knows just how much fun those games can be. From the classic days of the original “Double Dragon” to the release “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time”, this genre has always been held close to the hearts of many gamers around the world and brings some of the deepest feelings of nostalgia out of just about everyone. However, this genre is unfortunately starting to fade away. Aside from a very small handful of re released classics, there hasn’t been a completely brand new beat’em up for many years. With the release of “Castle Crashers”, all of that has changed. The Behemoth has set in motion one of the greatest genre revivals of our time. Every aspect of the game is amazing, the nostalgia is immense and the replay value is practically endless. Prepare to be blown away by the blissful experience of “Castle Crashers”.

The story of “Castle Crashers” is intentionally cliche, but the way it’s designed provides enough humor to make just about anyone chuckle from time to time. An evil wizard has decided to take a powerful crystal from the castle of your home town, but what’s more still is that he’s taken all 4 princesses into captivity. Your goal is to find and rescue all 4 princesses, bring down the evil wizard and reclaim the crystal. It’s very basic, but hilarious nonetheless.

If you’re a fan of art at all, look no farther than this game. Every aspect of “Castle Crashers” has been drawn by artist Dan Paladin of The Behemoth and it is absolutely gorgeous. Honestly, “Alien Hominid HD” doesn’t even come close by comparison. The Behemoth has come a long way, but I guess that’s what happens when you design a game for a console from the ground up as opposed to converting a flash game into a console game. And just to clarify: “Alien Hominid HD” is and always will be one of my favorite games, but the art in “Castle Crashers” is far superior by comparison.

Ahh, as if it weren’t perfect enough already! “Castle Crashers” tops the audio visual experience off with a wonderful and perfectly fitting soundtrack that feels extremely epic in almost every instance. Straight down to the little sounds of swords slashing and clanking, it’s very obvious that The Behemoth has put an extreme amount of time, effort and heart into this project. Not only does the game look wonderful, but the music and sound effects will stink just about anyone into the experience that is “Castle Crashers”.

If it’s fun you want, it’s fun you’ll get. The guys over at The Behemoth obviously know what makes people “tick”. “Castle Crashers” balances difficulty with sheer fun factor to create the perfect beat’em up experience, both online and offline. From the title screen, you can choose between the 2 primary Local or Xbox Live modes. From there, there’s an eating contest minigame, a PVP arena and the main game. The eating contest minigame would have been a cool addition to the main game from time to time as a throwback to the bonus rounds of the old days, but as a standalone mode, it’s quite boring and gets old after 1 or 2 tries. The PVP arena is incredibly fun from time to time, but still doesn’t even come close to the overall enjoyment of the main game. The main “Castle Crashers” mode has the player going through over 20 stages, several arenas and various shops on the quest to bring down the evil wizard. Before you can jump into the game and tackle the various challenges presented in the many stages, you must pick your character. At the beginning of the game, there are 4 elemental knights available on the character select screen, as well as the Alien Hominid if you own the game and have at least 1 achievement unlocked. Upon selecting your character, you are greeted with the short opening and immediately take control of your chosen character in the starting room, which has several NPCs waiting to give you a complete explanation of how to play the game. Controlling the characters is very simple and should take no time at all. Many players will figure it out in a matter of seconds without the aid of a tutorial. Throughout the game, you will collect many different weapons, a nice variety of pets and several one-use items, such as potions, bombs and sandwiches. The sandwiches turn you into a “hulked out” version of your character, which brings me to the first drawback of the game. When you’re “hulked out”, you actually seem weaker and much slower than you are when you’re in a standard form, which makes this feel like it should only be an instanced item for use during specific scenes in the game when it’s absolutely required to do something. Aside from item hunting and tons of enemy slaughter, players will level up and distribute attribute points as they see fit. However, that only works to a point. After you’ve hit a certain level, there’s no benefit of raising your level any higher because your attributes are maxed out and your points are useless. Up to that point, though, leveling is fun and exciting and each attribute point makes a big difference. By the time your character is maxed out, it’s hard to get killed on the normal difficulty at all, but that’s why Insane mode exists. It’s nearly impossible to finish Insane mode solo, but that’s where the real fun begins. When you’ve completed normal mode and maxed your character’s stats out, go online for some 4 player fun on Insane mode that’ll last forever. What’s more still is that there are over 20 characters to unlock and play through the game with, which is absolutely ridiculous. Each character has somewhat unique abilities and you’re forced to complete the game with every character on normal mode to unlock them all, so the bang for the buck here is great. In short, this game is amazing, but be warned, there’s still one more major flaw. As of this writing, there is a major glitch that causes all collected weapons and items to disappear upon playing the game online, which includes the major 3 items required to progress beyond a certain point in the game. There has not been a patch yet and I’m not entirely sure if one is even planned right now, but there’s at least a (really annoying) workaround to regain all of your data when things disappear. So just a fair warning: Be careful about playing online. The fix doesn’t take too long, but it’s a nuisance to keep having to perform such a fix nearly every time you play online, considering that’s where the most fun is had. Still, don’t let that stir you up inside. This game is worth the money.

Overall, The Behemoth is on the fast track to a beautiful future that all gamers across the world will benefit from. These guys know what gamers want and they’ve proven it all over again with “Castle Crashers”.

Pros:
-Beautiful artwork.
-Epic soundtrack.
-Nostalgic gameplay.
-Tons of things to collect.
-Large variety of characters.
-Immensely fun multiplayer, both online and offline.
-A max level of 99 for each character.
-Awesome boss fights and a badass climax.

Cons:
-Sandwiches feel useless most of the time.
-Online glitch is really annoying.

Bottom Line:
If you’re into the idea of classic fun with plenty of replay value and tons of people to play with online, this game is an easy buy. At $15, you get more content than most $60 retail games.

Overall Rating: 9.75

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