Castle Crashers – Indie Game Review

Games like: Golden Axe, Gauntlet, River City Ransom

TL;DR

Oh, medieval times. Packed with knights in shining armor, wenches, mead, and the black plague. Sprinkle some sorcery, a never ending barrage of villains to squash and tongue in cheek comedy brings us the Behemoth developed Castle Crashers. Draw thy sword!

castle crashers screen cap0

I need to start making t-shirts of these screen shots.

Castle Crashers is a critically acclaimed beat-em-up/RPG that has seen releases on both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 Network in 2008 and 2010 respectively and finally on the PC in 2012. You play as a fearless combatant, enjoying a party at the King’s castle with your friends until an evil wizard arrives to steal a mysterious gem and four princesses. It is up to you (and four friends locally or online) to save the princesses and take back what it rightfully your King’s while taking out as many of them as you can along the way.

I have such a big “games I want to play” list and Castle Crashers was definitely on it. Thanks to the Steam Summer Sale Gods, I was able to pick up Castle Crashers for a reasonably low price. Installation went clean, even installing and updating some Microsoft Direct X drivers for me and I was on my merry way to kick some goblin tail.

Or kill some guys in bunny suits... actually I think they are real bunnies.

Or kill some guys in bunny suits… actually I think they are real bunnies.

With it’s first release platform being the Xbox Live Arcade, the 360 controller performs magnifically by all accounts. The control stick moves your character around, light and heavy attacks are assigned to the X and Y buttons, A performs a jump, and your left and right bumpers will cycle through your inventory with B using the desired item. As you level up in the game, you will learn new move combinations that can be executed on your foes for more crushing devastation. The right trigger is dedicated to your magic use. Holding down this button will “charge” up your magic and pressing corresponding button combinations releases a series of flames and fireballs. The left trigger raises your shield to protect yourself from those enemies that fire arrows, or bones, from afar. There are more than you’d expect.

At start of the game, you can choose between four different knights all sporting a different color pallette. Along the way, completing certain objects and arena matches will unlock new characters that play some part in the main game. None of the starting characters come with any special abilities or upgrades over the other. You can also choose to download some extra content that includes a pink knight and the blacksmith. Both come with five additional weapons, and the $.99 USD you use to purchase the DLC is then donated to various non-profit charities. Not a bad deal.

Here's you just rocking out to the band.

Here’s you just rocking out to the band.

After the departure of the evil wizard, it is up to you to unsheathe your sword and destroy the enemy forces. Battling through the King’s castle, you make your way to the overworld map detailing areas that you’ve been and areas you have yet to unlock. You have the ability to go back to any of the areas you’ve been through to rack up extra experience points or to head to the shops to purchase potions and weapons to aide you on your quest.

Strangely like Alien Hominid...

Strangely like Alien Hominid…

The lands you explore are vast and unique to each area. Sure you have your goblins and giants to fight, but your journey will also take you to lands unknown such as the waterless deserts and an alien ship where the aliens look strangely like the protagonist from Alien Hominid. Along the way you find yourself collecting fruit to increase your health bar, different types of weapons that have advantages and disadvantages to your character’s strength, magic and speed. Choose to your strengths.

Eating a sandwich will supercharge you into a giant for a short amount of time.

Eating a sandwich will supercharge you into a giant for a short amount of time.

There are also “pet” like creatures that can join your party. These creatures come in all different types from owls to lizards or maybe what looks like a fish. Each pet has it’s own unique ability. Some let you swim faster in the water, others can find hidden items for you. My favorite was the ram. He will occasionally ram into your enemies, knocking them down and hitting for five points of damage every time. Again, this is a nice little addition to the normal gameplay that allows you customize your character to the way that you play. If you feel that the weapons or pets that you currently have aren’t working out anymore, there is a spot that you can go and switch out either of those as long as you’ve had it at one point in the game.

Periodically after completing a few stages, you come across a boss battle. These bosses are larger than life and have multiple stages. The patterns can become complex requiring you to have quick wits and patience to win out. They are bigger than life and sometimes downright frightening. One particular boss, is a giant evil corn on the cob. Slapping you with his corn husks, he’ll drive into the ground and come up where you are standing. Hitting him produces popcorn that replenish 1 HP. That’s just one of the few I can best describe what it was. There’s a bunch of others I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

An overgrown, licking bat is one of the bosses in the caves.

An overgrown, licking bat is one of the bosses in the caves.

As you travel farther, you will gain enough experience to level up. Leveling up awards you to increase in four different areas: strength, defense, magic and luck/agility. The more you level up the better warrior will become maxing out at 99. Leveling up will also open new move combinations and magical spells. The enemies in the game become more difficult the farther you progress so using the new combos and magic spells you learn will help you keep your wits about you. One of the more useful combos is a juggling combo. Juggling your opponent in the air allows you to jump attack them practically until they die. It’s kind of like Greater Cleave for those in the dungeons and dragons realm.

Leveling up allows you to increase one of your stats and unlocks new moves and magic spells.

Leveling up allows you to increase one of your stats and unlocks new moves and magic spells.

Included with the main storyline, are two mini games to waste some time on. You have “Arena”, which is a survival mode. Wave after wave of enemies collide onto the battle ground. Being the last one standing will award you the winning of the contest and a new unlockable character. There are several arenas spread throughout the main game. Each arena specializes in one particular type of enemy usually which ever one is most predominantly in the area that you’re in. This is an extremely easy way to level up your character before heading into the big boss battle.

The arenas scattered throughout the overworld are great for gaining quick XP.

The arenas scattered throughout the overworld are great for gaining quick XP.

The other mini game is called “All You Can Quaff”. Get it? I don’t either. This mode resembles the between stage mini games in the arcade beat-em-up The Simpsons, but instead of pumping a balloon full of air, you are in an eating contest. Eating all of the fruit before your opponents do will award you the victor. To win, you must press the X and Y buttons back and forth as fast as you can to eat. There’s no real prize at the end, except for bragging rights.

Eat till you can't eat no more!

Eat till you can’t eat no more!

Along with the normal gameplay, Castle Crashers comes with the ability to play online. Granted, the online mode has felt more downs than ups especially with the Xbox 360 version. Sadly, I wasn’t able to try the online mode out. After searching for matches to join and creating my own, I sat alone in an empty queue. But if you do happen upon a party, you can play any of the modes that are available with your online friends.

Castle Crashers is an extremely fun and exciting beat-em-up/RPG. With tons of weapons, pets and areas to explore, you and your friends (rather online or couch co-op) will definitely add this game to your beat-em-ups of choice. Paired with an medieval atmosphere, the ability to use magic and ride animals, pulls a close sense to games like Golden Axe and Gauntlet. Lots of replay value with mini games and the ability to replay completed levels. I really enjoyed this game and will continue to reach for level 99. A nice addition to anyone’s collection especially those who enjoy the genre.

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