When a game begins with a character head-banging to medieval music, you know you’re in for something special. Castle Crashers is just that. The game has adopted the humour and a lot of the characteristics that featured in Behemoth’s previous Xbox LIVE Arcade title, Alien Hominid; from the side-scrolling to the easy to pick-up-and-play controls.
Castle Crashers puts the player in the place of one of four knights, each a different colour and each specializing in one of the four areas: strength, magic, defence and agility. Playing through the story mode whilst defeating the enemies with each knight gains experience points which contribute to boosting the knight’s level. At every level gained, players unlock attribute points which can be added to one of the four areas in order to increase the knight’s abilities.
Another feature that affects your knight’s abilities is the choice of weapon. If you choose a heavier weapon it’s likely to drop your agility attributes, though it is also likely to give your strength attributes a boost. Weapons are unlocked via deceased enemies dropping them, discovery in treasure chests or on occasions purchased. Once collected, weapons are stored at the blacksmiths in the belly of a giant fish – a bizarre plaice for weapon storage though vaguely adds to the game’s humour. As well as weapons, players also discover pets which give the player a boost in one of the four attribute areas. I rarely required my pets help during the story mode and therefore found the majority of the pets to be a little pointless.
The story behind Castle Crashers is very simple. The evil wizard has stolen the castle’s magic crystal as well as abducting the king’s four attractive daughters, leaving the castle in disarray. It’s the knights’ job to track down the evil wizard and to rightfully obtain what was theirs. To track down the evil wizard, you play through a wide range of environments including castles – obviously, caves, forests and sailing ships. Each environment has been beautifully created and matches the style of the game extremely well.
For the slightly-on-the-expensive-side price tag, the Castle Crashers storyline had to provide players a decent amount of hours and replayability. In some aspects the game does this brilliantly well, depending on how many play-throughs of the story mode you are willing to put up with. Players are expected to play the campaign using each of the four knights. As the story can easily be clocked off within a few hours, this may not prove to be a problem. The only problem is that the story mode doesn’t change depending on the chosen character which means four play-throughs of the same storyline.
As well as the campaign, Castle Crashers also offers two other game modes. The first of which is the Arena mode, in which players are faced with waves of increasing amount of enemies. Whilst it is a nice touch, the mode is not fun and feels pointless. The second game mode is All You Can Quaff, a mini-game, in which players button-bash X and Y to eat the foods on the knight’s plate. There’s no skill required and I doubt many will play the game mode more than once. All the game modes, including the campaign are playable in co-operative mode offline and online. Having an extra pair of hands to assist you with the campaign takes a lot of the pressure off and is also great fun at the same time. Nevertheless, I base the previous statement on the offline co-operative play.
On many attempts to play Player and Ranked matches I entered the game lobby just to be greeted with NAT problems. Considering the main selling-point of the title was the co-operative feature – more specifically online, this has proved to be a major problem. Fortunately - as of writing this - Behemoth have confirmed that a patch is in the works. Despite its flaws, the multiplayer does come with its advantages. As the number of enemies doesn’t increase, playing with a higher amount of players can prove to be a huge aid. However, the resources available to players remain the same and therefore it’s either all about sharing, or every man for himself.
The main feature of the game that stood out above the rest was the humour. The constant pooing animals and general humorous behaviour of characters is very Behemoth-like humour and a very welcome addition to the game. The humour is helped by the brilliant cartoon style Castle Crashers sports. The humour would not have had the same effect if Behemoth had used life-like graphics – it would probably have been rather creepy!
Strong sound effects and some great background music make Castle Crashers a great game to turn up the speakers for, despite no audio within the story mode. The controls are very simple to pick-up-and-play consisting of two attacks buttons, an action button and a jump button. The achievements cover everything the game has to offer. The difficulty of the list is just about right as all the achievements are feasible yet some may take a while to unlock.
In conclusion, Castle Crashers is a fantastic Xbox LIVE Arcade title despite its problems. I feel the price tag of 1200 Microsoft Point is slightly too high and will put off many, but if you enjoyed the trial the full game is a must.