Genre: Action Developer: The Behemoth Publisher: Microsoft Classification: G8+ Release Date: 29th Aug 2008 Platforms:XBOX360
Average of 8 Ratings
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The Good bits
Huge replayability thanks to unlockable characters and a variety of items.
Structured player on player combat is a great way to keep focussed on the task at hand.
A great way to spend $20.
Very easy to play.
4 player local multiplayer.
The Bad stuff
Crappy netcode makes online play a waste of time.
Only on Xbox Live Arcade.
Cooperative beat-em-up games are rarely cooperative - at least not for me. For example, my friends and I never made it past the third level of Streets of Rage because we’d always wind up either beating each other up in the game or in real life.
Even today we still don’t work very well together – games of Crackdown quickly devolve into a fight for survival and a subsequent quest for revenge, and I’ve never played a game of free-for-all Grand Theft Auto IV which didn’t immediately turn into a bloodbath after a stray bullet caught one of the participants.
Yet when a friend and I sat down to play Castle Crashers from start to finish on the weekend we actually apologised to one another when we accidentally stole food the other needed. And because I’d played the game already I let him get all the treasure because I didn’t need the gold. We actually worked together to finish the game.
Let’s try to work out why we worked together, instead of battling each other every step of the way. The graphics in the game are super cute – it’s the cartoony style you might expect from the team behind Alien Hominid on the GameCube and Alien Hominid HD on the XBLA. The creators have strong roots in creating flash games, and the benefits of this experience are evident in Castle Crashers.
It’s a huge draw to the game, but looking cute is hardly going to unite two crude dudes into working together – we might even have fought harder to make sure people know we’re tough. It’s probably not the story – there’s barely any text and no speaking as you crusade through level after level. A lot of the story is simply acted out by mute characters, though there are a few characters who will explain things to you. In essence an evil wizard steals not only a giant crystal but your kingdom’s princesses, and being the stud you are you have to go rescue each princess - and eventually the giant crystal as well.
So it’s not the story – we’re not on a quest for a golden axe here. Perhaps it’s the gameplay itself. It combines very basic controls and RPG elements to great effect. You jump with the A button, quick and hard attack with the X and Y buttons respectively and you have the B button for using items. The shoulder buttons change items and the Left Trigger blocks, while you combine the Right Trigger and face buttons to use magic as you unlock it.
It’s nothing a beat-em-up player wouldn’t have encountered before, and a rookie can pick it up in minutes. The game builds the combat with combo attacks and new magic abilities as you progress through the game using the RPG system.
As you attack monsters you gain experience – it counts attacks, not kills so you don’t have to fight each other - you simply leap into the thick of the action. You have four different skills you can upgrade – Defence, Strength, Speed and Magic – and each one gives you obvious benefits. There are 99 levels but the game doesn’t scale enemies according to the number of players so I made it to level 21 by the end of the game. We weren’t well prepared for the end of the game either – without enough Defence I died and had to be revived three times during the final boss fight. My team mate never died once.
The extra complexity the game brings through its use of different weapons and animal minions adds volumes to the game. The items – animals and weapons alike – modify your stats and give various bonuses. Stat twinks will quickly latch onto only a few weapons and animals, but the variety available gives huge variety to the average player.
The obvious answer then – based on word count alone – is it’s the gameplay which proved so addictive… But I don’t think so. Another cop out answer is the old “a combination of all these elements kept us playing”, but it’s not that either.
The real answer is that at the end of every major boss fight you rescue one of the four princesses in the game. And as there’s only one princess you and your friends must fight it out for her love. We played to the end of the game to see who could win each battle – we were just working together to get to beating each other up.
There’s an Arena mode to test your mettle without the full game’s distraction, but there’s little point to fighting with a low level character – and finishing the story mode unlocks even more knights to duke it out with. We didn’t encounter Arena mode until after the
The game touts online multiplayer coop for the entire game however at the time of writing this either doesn’t work or is very, very laggy. It’s a shame, and if all your friends are out of immediate reach you might want to wait for The Behemoth to patch the netcode in the game.
Still, if you can have your friends come around for coop, or you just feel like playing through the game on your own it’s a great way to spend $20. It’s one of the must have original titles on the Xbox Live Arcade – go and get it.