Support Sid, click to buy via us...
Castle Crashers on Xbox live is a treat to play. Simple direct and great fun. With my usual multiplayer specs on I also found other players that treated me well, and a game with loads of collaborative angles. This was only slightly tarnished by getting unexpectedly kicked to the lobby by the game a few times.
If there's one place you can go for some simple multiplayer games, it's Xbox Live's Arcade Market. Castle Crashers, though it does have a single player mode, is made for playing with others.
For once, ignoring the entire solo game and delving straight into the online action isn't a total disaster because years of playing games like Golden Axe and Streets Of Rage means I know exactly what to do - march right, chop, slash and thwack.
Okay, there are a few more requirements, but you can get a relatively long way thinking like that. One quick glance at the controls fills in the gaps, magic is accessed on the right trigger, defence on the left, with jump and two melee attacks assigned to the face buttons. Finally, you have the use item button on the face (which allows you to select missile type weapons and little extras, my fave being the Hulk sandwich - feed it to yourself and watch as you grow to massive proportions), and the right and left bumpers for switching between items. Which isn't really much to get to grips with.
Its looks could be considered charming by some, but there's no denying it looks a little like a freebie Internet game. And weirdly that's quite off-putting. On the one hand, if I found this online sitting at my desk, I'd do my damndest to finish it and reach the top level - it would be a welcome invitation to bunk off doing any work and play games. On the other hand, sitting at home in front of the TV and playing Castle Crashers on a console feels like I'm neglecting my other games.
For once, ignoring the entire solo game and delving straight into the online action isn't a total disaster.
The online community has rated Castle Crashers between four and five stars, meaning they think it's a great game - and there are still plenty of people playing a full year and a half after release, but I'm struggling to work out why. One of the biggest appeals of playing Golden Axe in the arcades of my youth was that for 10p you'd get a good few levels of hacking and slashing and then, once you're money had run out, it would all be over. And that would be enough. I'd be off to go play some Space Harrier or Gauntlet. But this being online, you can play and play and play until you're utterly sick of it and I was sick of it after about half an hour.
Once you've laughed at the scatological toilet humour and got a kick out of hitting enemies with what can only be described as a spiky fish (there's a blacksmiths selling a vast array of weapons), there's nothing much left to keep you interested. Of course, if you've paid or the game and are strapped for cash, you're going to want to play it to death just to make sure you've got your money's worth. And therein lies the problem. I just don't think it's worth parting with your wages for.
Sitting at home in front of the TV and playing Castle Crashers on a console feels like I'm neglecting my other games.
As well as the co-op story mode you can play one-on-one arena battles. These tend to be decided before the fight's even kicked off purely because those of a higher level have all the advantages. Or there is the Daley Thompson's Decathlon inspired Eat All You Can (where you have to bash X and Y as fast as possible to win a four man eating contest) - not hugely interesting.
If you're pushed for time and love all that old school, side-scrolling fighting stuff then Castle Crashers will fill a hole for you, but anymore than half an hour's play and the boredom settles in fast.
Having a massive scrap at the end of each level between yourselves to see who will win the hand of the maiden and get that all important kiss changes the dynamics of the game suddenly as people you once considered allies are all of a sudden trying to lop your head off.
It's very simple to pick up and play, no one treats you like dirt for being rubbish at the game (often, players of a higher level will leave the money and food pick ups to you), as proved when you're felled by an enemy and require the kiss of life for the game to go on. However, the fun doesn't last for very long. Castle Crashers is a good one for your kids - what child doesn't find poo and fart jokes hilarious? One weighty problem is the amount of times the game itself will kick you out of the lobby.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: