Castle Crashers: review

  • Format: PS3 (version reviewed), Xbox 360
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: The Behemoth, Microsoft Game Studios (Xbox 360), Sony Computer Entertainment (PS3)
  • Developer: The Behemoth
  • Players: 1 – 4
  • Site: http://www.thebehemoth.com

More than a year after its release on the 360, one of the most popular XBLA games finally arrives on the PS3. That time has done nothing to dull the appeal of this charming and surprisingly deep game.

Classic side-scrolling arcade games such as Final Fight and The Simpsons Arcade Game were clear sources of inspiration for development studio The Behemoth. Indeed, Castle Crashers employs the same simplistic beat ’em up gameplay which has entertained us for decades, but it is the satisfaction and sense of progression through levelling up the characters which ensures that the first time you complete the game is unlikely to be the last time you do so. Levelling up gives points to improve the strength, magic, defence or agility of your character as well as unlocking new combos and spells. Deciding which to focus on initially does fundamentally affect how you play the game and approach enemy encounters. Although at level 1 the differences between the characters seem rather subtle, as they develop they become far more pronounced. Knowing how to effectively use a character’s magic to contain enemies, or mastering air combos, is useful; but both become essential survival skills when tackling the aptly named Insane Mode. It provides a huge challenge and for those interested in soloing it, a level 80 character should be considered as the bare minimum in order to have a decent chance of finishing it. This is a side-scrolling beat ’em up that has inspired character tiers in order to rank the 28 playable characters.

This addictive formula of a simple but challenging experience is tied to a really strong aesthetic. Bright, colourful and sharp, the hand-drawn look of the game creates a lot of charm and atmosphere. It’s a beautiful looking game, and the art direction ties into the medieval fantasy setting perfectly. It also compliments the game’s offbeat, hilarious and sometimes crass sense of humour. Whether it’s the deer with diarrhoea, the impromptu volleyball match, or the fact that after you save a princess you get a full on snog as opposed to a chaste peck on the cheek, there will be something in Castle Crashers that makes you crack up.

The only real issue with Castle Crashers is ironically also its strongest point; the multiplayer. Playing local or online co-op with up to four people is fantastic as the game plays up well to both the co-operative and competitive elements of playing with friends. Playing online with strangers is a far more frustrating experience. There isn’t any attempt on the part of the servers to distinguish between levels or aims when forming a party, so most of the time if you do manage to get a four person party going, there’s a decent chance that two of them will drop out in the first couple of minutes because of a difference in character levels. Also a source of irritation is the fact that anybody can control the characters when navigating the world map rather than just the host, which leads to a series of silent four way tug-of-war contests to decide where to go next.

But these are minor problems in what is otherwise an impressive package for a downloadable game. The nostalgic gameplay, charming character designs, and crisp, colourful look to the game is what will initially draw you to Castle Crashers – but it’s the character progression, unlockable weapons and animal familiars, as well as the challenge of Insane Mode, which make it hard to step away from.

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Written by Stevie L.

Stevie Lim is a man in Japan.

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