In my recently reviewed Shank , I talked about how the title was a throwback to a genre neglected in the modern gameosphere. The once lively and marketable side-scrolling beat-em-up seemed to have died with 8-bit/16-bit consoles and the arcades, left to only shame itself with pitiful modern iterations of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games, which produce a knee-jerk reaction like when the New Kids on the Block came back to tour.
Two years in the making, Castle Crashers finally arrives on the PSN. Following the games release on Xbox Live, it went on to win accolades far and wide for its beautifully vivid animations and the coma of awesomeness it put players into, walking away with Game of the Year awards from many publications. Why the distance in between the separate releases is anyone’s guess. The fact of the matter it is here, and man oh man is it nostalgic bliss for all your senses.
Unique to this title is the depth brought forth by a role-playing element which allows players to level up with XP, increase their stats, and gather unique loot spread across the world. It’s Legend of Zelda meets Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game, the two of whom hit it off in a cheap, dimly lit hotel room and made Castle Crashers.
Players travel across a world map and must collect certain items to unlock passage to inaccessible locales to complete all 20 missions and save all the princesses from an eclectic and humorous mix of end bosses. Along the way are aptly titled animal orbs which you can befriend, each with a unique set of characteristics to aid the player. Yeti will prevent you from being frozen, Bitey Bat chomps on enemies heads, Rammy knocks enemies over...you get the idea. Each selectable character has four upgradable stats: strength, magic, defense, and agility. How you spend your skill points will impact how effectively you hack-and-slash through your wily opposition. Short and sweet, there is a light attack, a heavy attack, a jump button, a button for using items, and the trigger button for magic attacks which are unique to each character. Players can string together combos, which they learn as they progress in rank, and the overall feel of combat is nothing short of complete and giddy satisfaction.
The four-player co-op has hands down produced some of the greatest moments I’ve had with downloadable content, while multiplayer modes likeVolleyball and Team Arena are really just a forgettable novelty and are merely fluff to an experience that stood the ground of substance without their inclusion.
All this being said, there are chinks in this soldier's armor. Problems arise when your hero becomes blocked by artwork in the foreground or larger-than-life enemies that take up a sizable portion of the screen. You are left pressing buttons hoping you are hitting sprites and will survive long enough to see yourself appear again on the other side. Another hindrance comes when joining the co-op campaign with over-leveled players. You are often left to play missions that completely leapfrog your progress in the single-player or are easily dominated by their advanced skill, making it seem like your play is on cruise control.
My major gripe with this game though, from my extended play of the single-player, is the enemy’s ranged attacks. It isn’t an issue when playing with friends who can easily clear out a screen, but when armies amass around you, shooting multiple arrows and projectiles at you from across the screen, often times it’s almost impossible to even get up and escape the plain you're on.
Regardless of the minor problems the occur and as repetitious as some beat-em-ups can become, every facet of this game is steeped in creativity and variety and it never feels redundant. Replayabilitiy is at an all-time with so many unlockable characters, hidden items and animal orbs, and a sense of humor that will leave you with a Cheshire Cat grin. The Behemoth is just another prime example of an indie developer that reaffirms any and all of my beliefs that some of the finest titles can be found on your respective console’s online store. It would be a tall order to make an argument againstCastle Crashers not being a necessity for your PS3. It is a must-own, must-play title, the Milli to your PS3 hard drive’s Vanilli. It appeals to just about anyone who can hold a controller in their hand, akin to the beat-em-up genre, which Castle Crashers helps bring back from the endangered species list. There is amazing depth to such a simple premise, and this is where the game barges through the steel gate across the drawbridge and into the heart of the castle.