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Castle Crashers offers a quirky and stylish action romp for up to four players but lacked substance without genuinely engaging content.
I anticipate that a lot of people will like Castle Crashers. I didn't.
It's hard to put my finger on exactly what doesn't work about it for me. I love the character design and the quirky cartoon animation; I also love the attention to detail in the scenes and the genuine sense of bombast brought to the action by the music. It just wasn't fun to play.
Given its design as a party title, I gave the game another try with my other half. Sadly, her verdict was the same as mine: It looks great, but playing it doesn't actually provide any fun. After four or five levels together we really couldn't see any reason to continue.
I think a game like Super Smash Brothers gives the impression that if you can create a fast-paced action game with four players on screen at once they are bound to have a good time. Castle Crashers proves this isn't the case.
It's the lack of nuance that really lets it down for me. Theoretically I had the strategic option to switch between ranged, melee and magic attacks -- but I never really saw any distinction between these approaches. The game essentially involves travelling from left to right and repeatedly hitting the enemy and trying not to get hit. I know that's the essence of a lot of games, but there really isn't any momentum or feedback that keeps you moving from one enemy to the next.
Technically speaking it's a game of button mashing and avoidance.
Technically speaking it's a game of button mashing and avoidance. The enemies are too strong to be considered entertaining cannon fodder -- Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (360) demonstrates how much fun it can be to ride through waves of weaker enemies -- and are weak enough they don't provide a real strategic challenge in the way that Prince of Persia requires the correct attack for each type of enemy. It just kills the pace and each level felt like a trawl to get to the end.
Castle Crashers also tries to use the position of the player to strategic effect, while remaining in 2D. There's isn't really enough visual feedback to help the player with their avatar's position with this and it adds a layer of confusion, rather than helping. Arrows launched miss their target for unclear reasons and the player can become masked by a large enemy and struggle to regain control.
It's a pity this doesn't work better as the PS3 is not spoilt for choice with four-player arcade party games in the same way as the Wii. There are other options, such as the volleyball minigame, a battle arena, RPG-like stats and creatures which can be paired with each character to boost abilities, but I found that these added very little.
There's isn't really enough visual feedback to help the player.
If you are looking for anarchic fun for four players, you could do worse than consider LittleBigPlanet (PS3) 1 or 2, which provides the same fast-paced comic mayhem but without the grinding nature and joyless controls.
[Chris Jarvis writes the Novel Gamer column where you can read his Brutal Legend fiction.]
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