A small company named The Behemoth headed by developers Dan Paladin and Tom Fulp, have really hit it big with their Xbox Live Arcade gem called Castle Crashers. The Behemoth has come out of nowhere in the past couple of years and has put out a couple of well-crafted games, including Alien Hominid HD and the topic of this review, Castle Crashers. Carrying a witty combination of humor and unique art design, this game ushers in a new standard for Xbox Arcade games. This top-rated and best-selling game on the Xbox Live Marketplace truly does deserve its place at the top of the ranks, and has even scored higher ratings than some of our most loved Xbox 360 titles.
The game starts out in the in the Great Hall of the castle when suddenly you are interrupted from your “party” session to a terrible scene where the Evil Wizard has stolen the large crystal and the four princesses. Now, the Castle Crasher Knights must fight their way through an entire world full of progressively stronger enemies in order to win back the four beauties and take back the kingdom’s precious crystal. Through your journey you will pass through a forest level, a volcano level, and an ice level to name a few. Castle Crashers is a hack-and-slash arcade style game where you can be expecting to fight a lot of enemies, and by a lot I mean you will constantly be fighting enemies. The button mashing gets to be a little excessive at times as it takes a massive amount of hits to kill one enemy. In my opinion the levels would be better suited with more mid-level bosses that provide more difficult challenges rather than making the low-level enemies carry so much strength. Aside from this small issue, the button mashing doesn’t take much away from the flow of the game. Castle Crashers takes you back to the old style, side-scroller games where you actually have to face a slew of “end of level” bosses, which happen to provide a surprisingly immense challenge. Some of the bosses you will encounter are a Cyclops, a large spinning ear of corn, a frost king, and there’s even a face-off against the enemy in a game of volleyball. Sprinkled throughout the entire game are dozens of humorous events, like the volleyball game, to keep the game light and funny while the pure genius of the developers is shown through the balance of wit and serious gameplay. The design is very unique and unlike anything you would commonly see on a console in recent days. It’s reminiscent of the good ole SNES days, but takes all of that and puts it in HD quality to keep you in the “next-gen” mind set.
Whether you are a “hardcore” gamer who feels the need to collect every weapon and find every secret, or you are a casual gamer who wants to have a little fun with his/her friends over the weekend, this game is definitely worth checking out. While some people are perfectly fine with simply completing a mainline story quest, taking a deep sigh, and putting in the next game disc, others like myself, don’t feel like settling with a level 30 character and a nearly empty gallery of weapons to choose from. With over 60 weapons, 26 different animal orbs, over 20 playable characters to unlock, and 99 character levels to master there are plenty of things to keep you busy with Castle Crashers. On top of all of this, once you have beaten the game in normal mode, you get the option of taking on the game in Insane Mode. Here the game is played as in normal mode, but your enemies are given an extra boost of strength and health.
Having played this game both single player and multiplayer, my opinion is that the game is built for multiplayer, because it simply seems to play better that way. The game can be played in single player with no real issues, but the company of friends or another person to help you out really does complete your experience. You can choose to link up online or grab one to three other friends and play on a single Xbox. One really cool feature that you are exposed to in multiplayer is reviving your partners. If a partner dies, it does not mean that they are permanently dead. In fact, you now have the opportunity to perform CPR on your comrade in order to revive them. This in turn adds some difficulty and strategy to your playing style, if one of your partners does happen to die. In the heat of battle you may not want to take the time to revive your partner to full health by performing well timed chest compressions (the Y button). Instead you may opt to use quick rapid chest compressions to pump up their health just enough to get them back into battle.
You are also not tied down to playing Castle Crashers in story mode only; would it be a true arcade game if you were? Two other game types are at your disposal, if the mood strikes you. All You Can Quaff and Arena are two great multiplayer games where you can test your button-mashing abilities against the computer or your friends. Arena gives you the chance to fight against others in a collection of game variants, while All You Can Quaff is a Food-eating contest that determines who can mash buttons the fastest and finish their food first.
As you level up in the Castle Crashers game you receive experience points that you can then turn into stats which makes your character stronger and faster. The four stat categories are Strength, Magic, Defense, and Agility. Each can be leveled up however a person wishes, but it is recommended that you try to focus on one specific attack stat. Attack stats are what I would call either magic or strength. I say to do this because if you get caught splitting up stat points between the two your attack will turn out weaker than what you expected. One issue I have with the leveling system is that you can’t really seem to do any significant damage on enemies unless you have some stat points on strength. This in turn makes it difficult if you want to do magic early on because in order for your magic to do any real damage it needs to be leveled up exclusively aside from strength, but with no strength points your damage is less than tolerable. The game is designed as a hack-and-thrash, therefore your weapon is what throws out large combo attacks, not the magic. I feel that the developers should have designed the game so a person who wanted to be exclusive to magic abilities could do just as much damage as someone who wanted to have brute strength. The weapons and animal orbs located throughout the game help boost your stats, or in some cases with certain weapons, lower your stats. The possibilities are nearly endless, when it comes to stat customization. The magic and attack sequences look simply amazing, and with four players jumping around the screen attacking enemies, it can become quite chaotic, in a good way.
The controls are very smooth and easy to use. Throughout the game you are introduced to different combos as you level up, which always consist of a combination of the X and Y buttons. Magic is used in the same way, except you hold the right trigger button in order to charge the magic before use. As the magic stat is increased, the availability of stronger magic attacks becomes available. The item menus are also very easy to cycle through while you are in game and you can seamlessly change from using your bow and arrow to throwing a couple of bombs your enemies way without taking a single hit.
Castle Crashers is a great game and is a must-buy for any Xbox Live Arcade junkie out there. If you are looking for a weekend of fun with your buddies then it’s the perfect game. Even if you have never bought an Xbox Live Arcade game before, here’s your chance to pick up what could be considered the best out there.
Also, don’t for get to keep your eyes open for anything that The Behemoth puts out. With their new title, currently named “Game 3”, in production, and titles like Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers backing them up, we are sure to see many more great things come from them.