Four years ago, games company The Behmoth brightened up the Xbox Live Arcade with its cute, yet violent, outing by the name of Castle Crashers. Two years after that, they graced Playstation owners with the colourful experience. Another two years on top of that and here we are, with the download-only hit finally reaching us on the good old Personal Computer. The good news is, it is still a wonderfully entertaining game full of stuff to kill and unlock; the bad news is that the online problems from the former releases still seem to hangover in this console-port.

For those who haven’t played, or heard about, Castle Crashers, it’s a side-scrolling beat-em-up, reminiscent of classics such as Streets of Rage and Golden Axe, with the implementation of RPG elements. You are one of four knights whose castle has been crashed (see?) and are tasked with saving the King’s four daughters and mercilessly decimating the evil wizard who is responsible. The story is as typical as it is irrelevant, because killing wonderfully colourful monsters doesn’t need an excuse, right?

One of the many environments you obliterate in.

The first thing you’ll notice about the game is how awesome it looks. The art style is fantastic and the colours are wonderfully vibrant and interesting, as you would expect from the same guys who developed the marvellous Alien Hominid. It is very entertaining to watch your chosen knight hack and slash away at the brilliantly designed enemies, watching their heads fly off as your flip your sword/axe/lollipop (seriously) around like a mad little ninja. The environments have had equal attention paid to them, with variety and depth being prevalent, ensuring your eyes remain pleased. I especially loved the hilarious little details through the levels, such as the owl with diarrhoea and the terrified squirrels (don’t look at me like that).

The combat is very simple for newbies and familiar to veterans of the genre. Although you won’t find anything innovative in the battling itself, it is certainly good fun and there is enough change in the level design to mix it up and keep it fresh between the normal levels. There is a light and heavy attack, a jump button, a use item button and a modifier for casting magic. I couldn’t help but feel a bit cheated as a PC user having such minimal support for keyboard input. All of the menus and in game prompts are sign-posted with Xbox controller symbols as opposed to keys. It isn’t a big deal, but that is the point – it surely can’t take long to make such a small change that will aid menu navigation. As much as it may be advised to play with a controller, some players (such as me) won’t want to.

As you fight your way through the levels, you will level up and, as we have learned as gamers, the addition of RPG elements is a very good way of keeping you interested and giving you a sense of development in a game where there isn’t much to master. It feels good to level up your knight, pooling XP into his strength, agility, magic and defence categories and shaping him up to boss mode, but the real fun comes from collecting the ton of different weapons and animal orbs. Every weapon you pick up grants a positive and negative buff to your stats and animal orbs are little creatures that float around your head, doing things like attacking enemies or finding hidden health items. There are also quite a few additional characters to unlock, each with their own magic ability outside of the fire, ice, poison and lightning knights you start with.

Yes. That is a lobster.

As fun as loot-collecting, character unlocking, hacking, slashing and shooting is on Castle Crashers, it is much more fun to do it with other people. The game is quite obviously designed for multiplayer, and it actually becomes quite frustratingly difficult if you play by yourself for too long. It is by no means impossible to complete by yourself, but, even early on in the game, you will find yourself in situations where you think ‘I really wish there was someone to help me take on the forces of evil so I could actually recover from these ranged attacks.’ The only issue is, getting into a game is a headache. I spent nearly an hour trying to get into a match, and the few successful attempts I had suffered from horrendous lag. Your best bet is to split the cost of the discounted steam 4-pack with some friends and create a private room to go on your magical adventure with. Failing that, there is always good old local co-op, if you have the controllers to support such events.

It may be 4 years late to the party, but Castle Crashers is definitely worth the purchase if you haven’t already picked up a copy on your favourite console. The flurry of collectibles, charming visual style and golden-era gameplay make it a wonderfully addictive and entertaining package. Get some friends in on it and go slay some minions.



Author

Ciaran Fallon
Ciaran Fallon

Filmmaker and full-time gamer studying Film and Moving Image Production in Norwich. Lives for experiencing and creating worlds on the other side of a screen: falling in love with characters, stories and shooting people in the face. Deus Ex is the all time favourite game and American Psycho the all time favourite film.