Unlike some video games that are out there it’s available on multiple platforms; Xbox, Playstation, and on the computer, so that everyone that wants to play the game can without having to have the right console.
The game’s main character is one of the user’s choosing, and there is a different introductory origin story for each choice that forms the basis that the rest of the game is built on.
This isn’t to say that the story line is different depending on what choices you make, because over all you go through the same storylines no matter how you interact.
The difference is how you get the tasks done; you may be able to diplomatically diffuse a situation, or you may talk your way into a fight you didn’t have to have. The right discussions with the right characters can lead to rewarding side quests.
Some courses of action will annoy your group, because each character has their own set of morals, and may disapprove of your decision to help, or not help, a certain NPC.
You can affect how the characters feel about you to the point of forming a romantic relationship with them on one extreme, to having them abandon the party on the other. Each character that can join your party has their own unique traits, and the more they like you the more likely they are to impart that knowledge to you.
The plot is the typical one for most RPGs; the world is in grave danger and only you can help save it. Each character has a rich history and a full set of character traits and personality. Morrigan is a mage that lived in the backcountry with her mother learning the art of magic in a way not taught by the Mage Circle of Ferelden. Alistair is a Templar turned Gray Warden who had an interesting childhood.
These two are particularly interesting, because Templars are sworn to hunt down Mages that don’t conform to the Mage Circle standards, but they’re both in your party for a higher purpose. This is another area that the depth of the game comes in, because as you’re walking around town, these two will sometimes start bickering with each other.
There is witty banter, non sequiturs, and comic relief all interspersed in a long and intricately developed game. If you like RPGs even a little bit, this one is a can’t miss.
The actual gameplay is good too. The combat is of a real-time style, but does allow you to pause and control your party’s actions. You can set up tactics so that your teammates will heal when they need to, or pick off a weak enemy, or use a debuff on a strong one. Movement is easy, switching between characters is a snap, and the camera control is excellent.
The best part of the game is that you can pretty much set your own pace. You can speed through things, minimize boring storyline and get to the action. You can also delve into the deep storylines, plots, and history laid out at every turn. You can interact with your party to learn more about them, unlock different abilities, or blow them off and learn nothing about them except how they can help you annihilate the enemy. The game is a long one, but when it’s over you wish there was more. Luckily all signs point to a sequel.
Castle Crashers is a side scroller beat em’up in the vein of the old Teenage Mutant Turtle Arcade game. Sold on Xbox live for 1200 Microsoft Points, Castle Crashers is published by The Behemoth, and developed by Tom Fulp (programmer/creator of Newgrounds) and Dan Paladin (Artist), the same people that crafted the sleeper hit Alien Hominid.
Now, you see. This would be about the part where I talk about the story, however, it is very minimalist and hardly worth mentioning. Your characters follow a plot to save the princesses of an unnamed kingdom, from fighting giant bats to bees to barbarians to bear crusaders. Which happens to be a great contributor to the lust for progression. A majority of the stages have varied enemies and locales, where each stage varies from the last. It really feels rewarding. Getting to see the new locales or what type of enemy you’ll be fighting is a great feeling that also aids in the replay value of the game, due to variety.
If you like side scrolling beat-em ups with simple controls (X is light, Y is heavy, Right trigger and different buttons do magic), you should feel at home. However, it also brings in new gameplay elements, such as a level up system (exp from combat), weapons (bought using gold or found), and pets (found). Upon leveling up, you select one of four skills to put points into. Magic, Strength, Agility, and Defense. Each one has an effect on gameplay. Although Strength, Agility and Defense all remain the same for the characters. All of the characters have different magic skills, and so far it’s been proven fun to replay and find out the skills of these characters (albeit on 4-player co-op).
Along with the finely crafted gameplay, the graphics are also a treat. The 2D art and the 3D environments are all hand crafted and animated, and are very colorful and visceral. From the fulfilling boss kills to decapitations and visceral magic attacks. None of the graphics seem out of place, even in the varied stages. The audio is cut from the same cloth: it’s also very well done, from the rhythmic and catchy map tune, to the epic ballads present in a boss battle. The music always adds to the experience, never getting in the way, just contributing to the experience.
The amount of replay value is also very high (as already noted), especially for a beat em’ up game. The level up system, coupled with certain areas you can only access if you have enough in a specific skill. Unlockable characters and fully realized four player campaign makes it worth a replay and maybe more, granted the variety of levels don’t make it feel tedious. The multiplayer is four player online and off, and if you have guests they can join online with you. Downloadable content in form of characters and stages is also possible.
The game’s slick art and often massive on screen battles usually are not subject to slow down. On a single occasion, the gameplay lagged for a small time (on four player), but it quickly resumed as normal. As for crashing or bugs, it seems to be very polished and I’ve yet to run into any problems.
Although no real major gripes are present, sometimes the game is a bit cheap to more inexperienced players, scoring easy hits when they’re unable to block. This can be bit frustrating at times, especially for characters killed by this. It is quickly glossed over by the fun and rewarding gameplay present when this is not happening.
A high quality game for 1200 Microsoft points if you enjoy Beat em’ ups, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Game, or just having fun with friends. You’ll find an extremely replayable and enjoyable package for under twenty dollars. Now, The Behemoth should go and make Alien Hominid Two, please…
Summary: A good, fun four player beat em’ up that is deeper than most of the genre, with high replay ability. Quick to pick up and accessible with a low difficulty curve.
Overall Score: 9 out of 10
(All images are copyright of The Behemoth)
Castle Crashers official website