Castle Crashers is a simple yet compelling game. Colorful and entertaining, it delivers in every way a game from a seasoned developer should, while still retaining that indie charm. Developed by The Behemoth, the people who brought you the site newgrounds.com, and Alien Hominid, Castle Crashers does what it says on the tin. There are no extras, there are no surprises, just an effortless beat ‘em up title that is uncomplicated in theory, but fulfilling in execution.
The game’s campaign lasts a surprising amount of time, given its straightforward nature. Levels rarely spill over the 30 minute mark and there is next to nothing in terms of dialogue or conventional storytelling. Despite this absence of in-game chin-waggery, the game still retains a sense of humor and manages to get its narrative across. You don’t feel like you have no idea what’s going on, instead you’re thankful that you’re not being dragged into age-long cutscenes after every level. Another feature that helps pull you through the game locked areas. Certain areas can only be unlocked by being a high enough level. Unlockable arenas also preventing Castle Crashers from drying up too quickly, giving players a break from jumping from mission to mission. While dying is annoying due to the fact that starts you at the beginning of a level, you keep all the XP and gold you gained from your previous try, thus not making the game feel repetitive and a waste of time.
This also allows for a certain amount of grinding to take place. Much like the determined Pokémon trainer who fights the Elite Four over and over again until their Pokémon are finally ready for the challenge, there will be bosses and enemies that make you sick to the back teeth just seeing them. Luckily, if you really can’t take the butt-whooping any more, you can always revisit earlier levels on the map and gain some XP that way. Leveling up your magic, strength, health or speed/stamina, when you feel ready, you can finally go back and wail on them for a change. Each of these stats correlate with a certain aspect of play; stamina increases your dexterity with a bow, strength means you can dish out more damage with your melee weapon, and magic and health are, I’d like to think, self explanatory.
Investing points in magic means the attacks you can conjure become more and more powerful. Playing as the Ice Crasher, (there are four to choose from, and can all be played with separately, or together online and locally), my magic caused enemies to freeze in blocks of ice. The more I upgraded these attacks, the more damage they dealt and the larger their area of effect became. Depending on whether you’re playing with others or playing alone, each Crasher has their pros and cons without drastically altering the feel of play. It means you can happily play through just once and still get the full experience, as well as playing through 4 separate times without the game feeling stale.
Of course, this is helped by the game’s great visuals and amazing score, which is put together by contributors at newgrounds.com. Castle Crashers visual style is similar to other games developed by The Behemoth, but that familiarity just adds to its charm. While the backdrops often feel quite enclosed, and aren’t enticing as similar games like Golden Axe, that boasts vast fantasy settings, Castle Crashers does have a broad range of enemies and aesthetics to keep play engaging. Expect to see faceless hooded thieves that spam you with arrows until you want to cry, fuzzy polar bears that can turn into tornados, and creatures that seem to be made up of balls of hair with eyes. Each part of the map boasts its own enemy, and this really helps the game stay fresh. This is just as well, considering gameplay consists of little more than hammering X & Y. Street Fighter it ain’t, but the simplicity of the controls is what makes it so addictive, and with combos, a plethora of melee weapons, blocks, bows, bombs and magic, you can tailor your play style to something that works for you. At the same time, the animations make it easy to tell when you’re dishing and receiving damage.
Lastly, there are some issues I would like to raise. For the most part, this PC port is well polished and in full working order. However, one concern that arises is local multiplayer. I don’t know about you but my PC setup isn’t built for three others and myself playing with my keyboard, controller and who knows what else. Also there are some problems with platforms and not being able to jump from onto one if you’re on a separate plane. Due to the side-scrolling nature of a game, if a platform is ‘above’ me on my x axis, but on the same level on my y axis, I cannot jump on, or off it. Instead there will be a ramp I have to take. This resulted in me be cornered a couple of times when my nifty escape tactic failed to work. But I think thats literally it in terms of negatives from this game.
Is It Worth Your Money?
For $14.99? Yes, it bloody well is. With gameplay and ‘narrative’ that sucks you into the game, and additional modes for those that exhaust the campaign, I can’t help but love Castle Crashers. Although its been out on consoles for 2 years, its easily been one of my favorite games recent releases. 2 years is too long for the PC to have waited, don’t leave this a second longer!
- Time Played – 5 hours
- Widescreen Support – Yes
- 5.1 Audio Support – Yes
- Bugs/Crashes Encountered – None
- Control Scheme – Controller (recommended) Keyboard/Mouse
- DRM – Steamworks
- System Specs – GTX 460, 2.4GHz Core2 Quad, 4GB RAM
- Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
- Availability – Steam
- PCGaming Wiki – Full Report