Castle Crashers
Platform: XBLA
Developer: Behemoth
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Released: 2008
Rating: Teen

Written by Victoria Zukas

Castle Crashers is an action game in the spirit of old GameBoy/SNES games. You’re the hero who must rescue the kidnapped princesses. There will be plenty of bad guys to kill and bosses to fight as you side scroll your way through the kingdom. Unlike its older friends it’s a 3D game. However, it’s the fake kind of 3D where the back-forward dimension is flat. While this means you do have more space to move in, it also means you have to be on the same line as an enemy. It takes a bit to get used to, and it’s especially annoying in boss battles.

You have four characters to choose from. Although each wears a different color and uses a different element of magic, they are basically the same. As you level up you can choose to get better in Strength, Magic, Defense, or Agility. This means that while the nameless heroes start out generic, you can customize them to how you like to play. The game wastes no time getting you started. A knight tumbles into the starting room with an arrow in his back and everyone rushes off. No long cut scenes or opening dialogue; straight to the smashing. In the starting room there are four characters who will, in six speech bubbles or less, walk you through everything you need to know. After that you can head out and begin your adventure.

The cartoon art style works for this game, especially since it doesn’t try to take itself seriously. While by no means the latest and greatest in graphics, everything looks part of a unified aesthetic. The details are what really brings everything together. The area I’m fighting in is a very good rendition of a battle torn village, but in the background there is an army fighting, with magic and arrows going into this giant cloud of smoke which looks to be the center of the battle. The developers made a world that’s fun to look at as well as be in, not an easy task.

With Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Skyrim, and a host of other AAA games coming out recently, it’s easy to be swallowed by the sea of 40+ hour games when all you want is a simple, yet engaging, hack-n-slash. Castle Crashers is that game. It’s best enjoyed by turning your brain off, sitting back, and setting some minions on fire. I’m still up in the air if it’s better as a single player or multiplayer game. The multiplayer is easier, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a challenge. The major difference between single and multiplayer is that in multiplayer you don’t have to restart the level when you die. The other player can revive you a certain number of times, so as long as one of you lives the game can continue. Also, having another sword to go against the bosses can be extremely useful. On the flip side, pairing a new player with a friend who’s gone though the level before can be an exercise in frustration (though that’s less a problem with Castle Crashers and more a problem with multiplayer games in general).

There is almost no UI in the main game; just a small square in the upper right with your picture, health, mana, and other relevant information. When you’re finished killing everything in a given room a large green arrow will appear, telling you to go right. Subtle is not in this game’s vocabulary. It all works, until a tip appears. Having tips appear in battle when I get new abilities or weapons is OK. Having those same tips take up so much of the screen mid battle that I can’t see anymore – problem.

Another odd thing the game does happens when you die. In most games after you die your experience and items are reset to how they were at the last save. Instead, the experience you gained stays with you and any potions you used are gone. While loosing potions is annoying, keeping the experience makes up for it. I went from Level 2 to Level 5 in one area because I kept dying. This has the added benefit of keeping you from getting stuck on any area.

While the fake 3D does make gameplay frustrating in parts, it was never so much that I stopped playing. I recommend this game to anyone who’s looking for a nice hack-n-slash in between boughs of AAA hard core gaming.

Final Verdict – Buy It