Format: Xbox 360 (only available on Live Arcade)
Plot: Pretty simple this, an evil wizard and his minions attack your castle and capture four princesses. The king orders you and your chums to rescue said princesses. Yes, this game is very simplistic in plot, but that’s the point.
Genre: Four player, sideways scrolling, beat ‘em up.
It looks amazing. The graphics are hand illustrated and have a great cutesy look tempered with blood and gore. There’s really nothing better than gaping at the art whilst playing in HD. The character designs all look great, the end of level bosses have distinct looks and even the rank and file cannon fodder enemies have their own unique look and feel. There’s really nothing else that looks like it.
It has a great sense of humour. This is the strangest game I’ve played since Earthworm Jim. You will find yourself fighting bears armed with fish, volleyball playing Saracens, pirate ninjas… The list is long and strange and I don’t want to spoil all of the surprises. There are some great background jokes on each level and some great physical humour from the adorable little characters too.
It has a leveling system. Seems that everything has to be an RPG these days and Castle Crashers is no exception. Each time you level up you can increase one of your stats, Strength, Defence, Magic or Agility. It’s pretty straightforward and allows you to customize your character so you can adapt to the style you want to play.
There are various weapons and other unlockables. You can discover a plethora of extra weapons (later housed within the mouth of a blacksmith’s giant frog) that give different bonuses so you can further customize your character’s abilities. Players can also find cute, floating, animal companions that add extra abilities.
There is an All You Can Quaff subgame. It’s just like playing Daley Thompson’s Decathlon except with knights gorging themselves on food instead of some mundane crap like the long jump.
It’s fairly cheap. It costs 1200 points on Live Arcade, which means that it’ll cost you £12.75 or so in real money to get the 1500 necessary points to get it.
The combat is unashamedly old school and repetitive. Scroll along, swipe at enemies with your weapon until dead, go onto the next screen until you meet the boss. Rinse and repeat. This may bore some of you to tears or have you weeping with unbridled joy at the nostalgia. The collision detection is sometimes a little fiddly as you can swipe away at thin air at enemies that you thought were on the same horizontal plane. This also happens with treasure hunting where sometimes you have to dig in the exact bloody pixel. This problem is quite uncommon but is annoying when it comes up.
Some of the levels are close to sensory overload. On a couple of stages there are rain effects, which when coupled with hordes of enemies can cause you to get a bit confused and lost on the screen. This only occurs on a couple of levels though and it may just have been the effect on my brain as it was being overloaded with awesome.
Online multiplayer feature doesn’t work. Yup, there’s no way of connecting to someone else. This will be fixed in the first patch but there’s no ETA on that as of yet. But you know what? I think this is a multiplayer game where it’s better to have the other players in the same room gathered around the TV. Such an unabashed old school experience should be played in an appropriate manner. Invite your friends round and play t he four player version in your home.
Sometimes it doesn’t save your progress. This hasn’t happened to me yet but apparently some players have complained that the autosave function sometimes forgets to save your progress. This is pretty nasty but like I said, I haven’t experienced it yet. Still, it’s quite an issue to have in the final release but I believe this will also be fixed in the patch.
I enjoyed Castle Crashers immensely as you can tell from my positive comments so far. This isn’t a game you’ll lose your life to but it’s a fun hark back to the days when you and your mates would crowd around the arcade and play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or any of the other great 4 player arcade machines. If you’re too young for that grimy arcade experience then I’m sorry for you but at least there’s now a great excuse to try and recreate what the older gamers got up to (which will probably accompanied by a thirty-something gamer complaining in the background that they didn’t have HD in their day and games cost 20p a credit).
Arbitrary Score Out Of Ten: 7.5/10