|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: The Behemoth||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: The Behemoth||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 27, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4: Online 2-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Castle Crashers is an XBLA title that's part side-scrolling beat-'em-up, part action RPG, and part interactive comic. The healthy mix of classic arcade mechanics with a heavy dose of irreverent humor makes this a title worth downloading.
The game was developed and published by The Behemoth, known for their Alien Hominid series. The crisp, cartoon-style images, similar to that of Alien Hominid HD, are excellently replicated in Castle Crashers, but with a medieval twist. I've started out by speaking about the presentation because it truly is quite superb and sets this game apart from the competition. Players will enjoy the varied and colorful levels, the simple fire and dust effects, the rather mild decapitation animations, and the adorable (yet cool) characters. Additionally, the music is awesome; I loved the varied, upbeat tunes! The musical score is an excellent addition that really adds a lot to the game while remaining unobtrusive. Also, the battle sounds, dopey bosses, and the shrieks from the helpless princesses are priceless.
As far as gameplay goes, you will start off by selecting one of four default knights. However, progressing through the game allows you to unlock other characters and even Alien Hominid itself. Each knight (and character for that matter) is distinguished by both color and its own magical ability: the Green Knight uses acid; the Orange Knight uses fire; the Red Knight uses electricity; and the Blue Knight uses ice. Magical abilities, as well as strength, agility, and defense, are boosted by leveling up and dropping in skill points to make your character more powerful. I liked the fact that each character must be leveled separately; this provides for a lot of replay value. On the downside, you'll have to take each character through the story from the beginning, as the branching story paths will be locked. However, unlocked weapons and gold totals will be shared by all your characters.
Through the addition of skill points into the magic slot, for example, multiple magic maneuvers will open up, and existing magic will become more devastating. Eventually, your high-level knights will dish out massive magical damage to the increasingly difficult foes throughout the adventure. Consequently, Magic proves to be incredibly important and will likely serve as your go-to maneuver. Thankfully, pulling off magic is easy; simply hold down RT as the magical modifier and press X,Y, or B to perform the magical attack (A is used for magic jumps).
In addition to magic usage, melee combat is a big part of Castle Crashers. As your heroes advance in level, certain button combos will open up for you. These button combinations are easy to use and devastatingly effective. Unfortunately, pulling out your ranged weapon (except while using magic) is fairly ineffective and somewhat frustrating. However, it does knock opponents prone, which can be quite handy during Arena battles (more on them later). Nevertheless, this knockdown feature can get extremely annoying when faced with large groups of archers; sometimes, you'll get into an almost glitch-like series of impassable, up-down antics. Ranged weapons aside, non-magical combat is both satisfying and challenging.
Castle Crashers also provides players with a lot of weapon collecting, treasure hunting, and Animal Orb capturing goodness. There are loads of weapons to be found and purchased throughout the game. Swords, staves, axes, bows, maces, etc. all perform quite well and have various beneficial and detracting features. Typically, weapons will give your character a bonus or two to certain abilities, while slightly hampering another. The weapons you find will be kept back at the castle where a gaping frog maw is used by the Blacksmith for a shop. Weapons can only be switched out by going back to the frog cave.
There are also a bunch of gold pieces, money bags, gilt trophies, rubies, emeralds, diamonds, etc. to be found. Plus, there are various hidden inventory items and treasure chests that avail themselves to your characters as they progress through the story. All this treasure hunting adds up and is quite addictive. Often, you'll find yourself backtracking for relatively insignificant gold pieces, as they allow you to purchase new weaponry and potions.