Castle Crashers: A Welcome Return To Beat-Em-Up Roots
There are precious few ‘Beat-Em-Up’ games on the Xbox 360 console, that don’t cost an arm and a leg to own, and I think I can safely speak for the majority when I say that we truly are at a loss for this. Since the days of Final Fight, Double Dragon and Streets of Rage nobody has managed to capture that classic feeling of being a lone warrior against hordes of enemies with only your two fists and your two feet as your weapons. Or even better the original Ninja Gaiden, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Golden Axe series, which focused more on the weapon combat and gave you many more bad guys to fight at once.
Castle Crashers is a refreshing return to our beat-em-up roots. Developed by The Behemoth and released on August 27th, 2008 at a price of 12,000 Microsoft Points (about 15 dollars) it seems to capture the feeling and excitement of the original beat em ups in a new original way.
My confession for this post is; I am naked as I write this. Well not entirely I guess, I do have socks on and my tennis shoes in case I have to walk on cold concrete to get to the kitchen.
I tell you this not to disgust or creep you out, far from it. You are after all my loyal readers. My nakedness comes about from a fact that I believe in honesty and straightforwardness. No sugar coating, no veils or half truths. Straight forward honesty.
Somewhat refreshing right? Just don’t stare too hard, you’ll go blind.
The first time I ever played a beat em up game was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II the Arcade Game. This was back in 1990 at a local video shop. I was 6 at the time. I had recently fallen in love with the Cartoons and by fall in love I meant I had developed an inhuman turtle fetish. I had all the toys, a bunch of the VHS’s (if I had a VHS player I would buy them all again off Ebay in a heart beat). For Halloween in ’89 I had dressed up as Leonardo. My younger brother dressed up as Shredder that year. I know this because that was the year that I was forbidden from ever owning knives and swords while I lived under my parents house because of my… enthusiasm to defeat the shredder.
The turtles represented to me the pinnacles of how children in modern society should behave. Respect your elders, follow the rules but remember that everything comes with a degree of flexibility and you must adapt to situations as you saw fit. That and pizza was awesome. Oh and drugs are bad. So of course I loved any game that had anything to do with them.
However as time progressed, beat em ups changed. With the advent of 3-D technology and more powerful systems, games began moving away from the simplicity of Beat-Em-Ups. Players wanted stories; they wanted to be able to do more. To interact with their environment. They wanted plots, betrayals, friendships.
I *was* afraid for our ADHD Ritalin chugging children of the future.
I say was because recently I got got sucked into Castle Crashers. It was by accident. I didn’t mean to. I was sitting in my chair playing Viking and enjoying the hell out of cutting people into meaty chunks. When I got a message from PraiseChaos.
Praise ‘dood… You should get castle crashers’
Me ‘Not really my style of game anymore.’
Praise ‘ I need some one to play with’
Me ‘well okay then, guess I’ll go get it’
To describe Castle Crashers to someone who has never played it… It’s like a giant ball of cheese crack that I can nibble on at my leisure and enjoy. I can’t think of anything more creative then that. Nor do I really care to.
The games premise is incredibly simple compared to today’s big name games, games like Final Fantasy, Onimusha, Dungeon Siege or any number of games out on the market for Xbox, PS3 or the older systems. Your princesses (4 in total) have been kidnapped by a Cabal of Good-For-Nothing baddies as well as some wizard stealing your king’s favorite giant crystal. Your job as his number one knight is to kick the crap out of everything that gets in your way and get your shit back. Perfection is found in simplicity. Like Ninja Turtles trying to find your Master Splinter. The Knights are after the Princesses and the Crystal. Castle Crashers offers as well a refreshingly simple concept for character progression and growth. You will find me using those two words a lot I think, refreshingly simple. Castle Crashers does not offer you anything new you have not seen in 20 years. Anyone who’s played the original arcade games back in the 80s will easily feel at home in Castle Crashers simplistic nature. But don’t let that fool you. Just because it’s simplistic that doesn’t mean it’s boring. It is in fact subtle in its nature. Preferring to slide its jokes in rather then throw them in your face like some games do now.
Back to Character growth and progression for a moment. At the start of the game you’re given 4 or 5 different knights to begin and while they all have the same stats. Each knight has a different ability that usually corresponds to their coloring. The Green Knight has a poison attack; the Red Knight has a lightning burst. The Blue Knight has an ice attack and the orange knight has a fire attack.
Your character grows based on an experience system, much like an RPG. The difference from the standard RPG is that you don’t get XP for actually killing the enemy, but on the number of hits you get on the enemy. An interesting choice but in the end it makes sense. This prevents high level characters from easily going back and level grinding at the first few stages. You’re forced to progress to the later stages in order to find enemies that will allow you to get a few hits in.
The standard RPG stat progression from systems like Dungeons and Dragons applies. Every time you level you get points to put into your four stats: Strength, Magic, Defense or Agility.
Everything has been simplified so you can get back to the one thing you are there for; kicking the ever-living crap out of the enemy forces.
Each enemy and boss offers a new and unique experience. While for the most part the enemies do look the same, they vary from stage to stage. The barbarian horde and boss do not look like the thieves and giant cat that attack you in the forest stage which look nothing like the large imps that attack you in the lava stage leading up to the volcano boss.
Thankfully one of the best features I have found is the ability to turn off the ‘gore’ setting. While very tame for someone of my age bracket, the random chance of lopping someone’s head off with blood squirting out made me reluctant to share the game with friends of mine who have small children of their own. After finding the gore setting and seeing what the game looked like with the setting off, I turned around and invited my friends to play it and especially with their children as the game allows for simultaneous 4 player co-op..
Castle Crashers is a welcome addition to anyone Xbox game library and guarantees at least a few hours of mindless enjoyment as you battle through hordes and hordes of bad guys in pursuit of your princesses. If you’re an obsessive compulsive like me and need to unlock every character, be forewarned. You have to beat the game several times in order to unlock everything.
Spend the money and get CC and I promise you won’t regret it.