248th played so far

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Genre: Action/Role-Playing
Platform: Xbox 360/PS3
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: The Behemoth
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios/Sony Computer Entertainment

There’s something fun about side-scrolling beat-em-ups. They’re straight forward, fun bashing which feels like you progress easily as you figure out the (usually easy) combos. They make for good multiplayer as you work with each other or against you, with this type of play showing even in otherwise unrelated games such as New Super Mario Bros Wii.

Castle Crashers takes this general gameplay, adds in some RPG elements and cartoony looks and creates a medieval ‘rescue the princess’ story around it. And we can play it together. This is going to be fun! (It would be more fun if we got this on PSN and could play online for free… big mistake.)

Our Thoughts

And fun it was. Co-op is part of the game recently, with Left 4 Dead having been up previously and our MMORPG adventures. It is part of the beat-em-up tradition going back to the arcade and is of course found in this game as well. It reminded me a bit of the Simpsons arcade game… but actually good.

At its core, this is a beat-em-up with all the standard features. Enemy swarms, a few combos to take them out, and a big boss battle every once in a while to make it tough. As a beat-em-up, it has nice graphics, creative enemies, and some cute critters around. It adds some fun special sections, such as a few chase sequences as you try to stay ahead of a black furry monster thing, and features a player versus player element in both arena sections and a couple of specific storyline locations.

The game expands on this with its RPG elements. While the choices in leveling are limited – you increase your strength, defense, speed and magic – the game also slowly gives you more abilities to play with. The main part of this comes from the magic. As you raise your magic stat, you gain a couple more spells – area based and certain missiles. The interesting thing here aren’t just the upgrades though, it’s how it differentiates the characters. Aside from new magic-based attacks you also unlock new combos for when you are thrown into the clusterf*** that is most levels.

Aside from starting weapons, the spells are the main difference between the different characters. You start off being able to chose between four coloured knights, with fire, ice, lightning or poison-based powers.  By reaching certain landmarks with each character (they progress and level individually), mostly completing the game with them, you unlock other characters that you can take through the game. Most of them have different types of magic (with mostly later characters becoming sprite changes).

The game mostly stays a free-for-all beat-em-up fest. While the levelling adds a nice twist, probably the most exciting part is the violence you dish out. Because of that, multiplayer just gets better. Beating up all the enemies (it’s easier when you’re together, but also more chaotic) and then fighting over it? It’s awesome and great fun. Add to that the occasional struggles to get money or weapons before the other player, so you’re stronger, and you get a pretty fun game. There’s actually one more thing we want: more people to play with. It was nice playing with just two of us, but we just want to play with more people now. Three, four if possible. It can only get more awesome.

Final Thoughts

One annoyance I personally had with this game is that the save feature can be a bit buggy at times. However, in terms of the XBLA/PSN games we have encountered so far this one of the first that has offered action as well as a great deal of depth as well as a degree of re-playability. If it wasn’t for the fact we got this via XBLA this would be a game that I would lose hours to playing online… oh well.