Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 08/27/08 | Genre: Action
The Behemoth, the development team behind the excellent Alien Hominid, has just released their latest title on Xbox LIVE Arcade. Castle Crashers is every bit as good as Alien Hominid and even surpasses it in many respects. The game retains the same cartoon-style graphics and keeps the oddball sense of humor, but takes the gameplay in a different direction, and best of all, allows for four player co-op over Xbox LIVE.
Castle Crashers plays like an old school, 2D beat 'em up complete with combos and plenty of button mashing. You have two different options for melee attacks: weak or heavy. These use the X and Y buttons respectively. You can also use magic attacks which vary depending on which character you've chosen to play as. As you defeat enemies, you gain experience and levels. Leveling up will allow you to strengthen one or more of your character's four main attributes; Strength, Magic, Defense and Agility. The points are not automatically added, so you can level up your character as you see fit. This adds a nice touch to the game and helps out the replay value. The constant thrashing of enemies wouldn't be quite as enticing without that little something to work towards.
In addition to the leveling up system, there are several other elements that help keep Castle Crashers from getting lost in the crowd. One is the animal orbs that follow you around. As you play, you can have a little animal friend float behind you, but these aren't just for show; the animals act like a MAG from Phantasy Star Online, offering certain bonuses to your character. The bonus you receive depends on which animal you've got following you; some will boost your defense, others will grant you extra experience points and some will assault enemies that get too close.
As you advance in the game, you will come across new weapons and items that will affect your character's stats and may grant special abilities. Between stages, you can navigate the world map and head to the blacksmith where you can switch out your weapon for any other that you've come across or you can enter the ark and swap out your current animal orb for a different one. You will also find shops which sell things like healing potions, weapons and even special animal orbs. It's always a good idea to stock up on supplies before heading into the next battle!
And if you're heading into that battle alone, you are still going to have a good time. However, Castle Crashers really shines when you play with some friends. The style of the game and its humor are ideal for multiplayer gameplay. You and your buddies will have a blast playing this one and there are some special game events that only occur if you're playing with friends. For instance, when playing alone, if you save a princess she gives you the kiss and that's that. When playing with others you'll have to fight one another to see who gets the smoochies.
Castle Crashers has a lot going for it, but there are some minor issues that should be noted. By far the biggest problem I found with the game was the cheap projectile attacks from some enemies. Fairly often you'll be minding your own business, beating the Cheerios out of some failure of an assailant when one of his buddies starts pinning you with arrows from afar. This gets annoying quickly, but thankfully you can usually jump your way out of the situation; if you can avoid getting sandwiched, you should be alright. The only other issue worth noting is that when playing alone, leveling up your character may start to feel like MMO grinding which isn't exactly the most exciting thing one can do with one's time.
The problems mentioned above are easily overlooked, however, as the rest of the game is so good. The visual style is cool, the soundtrack is totally awesome and the gameplay includes a few nice surprises that keep it entertaining from start to The End. People who hate having fun probably won't like Castle Crashers very much, but for everyone else, it's well worth the purchase price on XBLA.