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Castle Crashers is the second major game from The Behemoth, who have built a successful business not only around the games they sell but also by leveraging clothing and soft furnishing merchandise.
Their first game, Alien Hominid, was praised for its fresh imaginative approach to platform gaming. There has been much expectation that Castle Crashers would do the same for side scrolling brawler games.
Brawlers focus on fast action fighting much akin to tag team wrestling. Here however, you are not limited to a ring but progress through a horizontal scrolling level by killing the various henchmen that come your way.
Traditionally brawlers enable up to four people to play together. Players both compete for score and assist each other by killing enemies. Along the way there are usually a variety of weapons that can be picked up and used as well as other environmental interactions. Levels are ended by a big boss who must be defeated before players can progress.
Castle Crashers breaths new life into this genre. Whereas other publishers and developers are republishing their 90's brawler games, The Behemoth brings a completely original game to the table. Whilst sticking to the basic tenants of the likes of Double Dragon and Golden Axe, Castle Crashers impresses with the sheer level of inventiveness and character it possesses. This is not only seen in the variety of attacks and interactions with the enemies and environment, but also in the quality cartoon characterisation lovingly applied to every enemy.
As players progress through the game they power up their character and are awarded different attacks and abilities. This adds a role play feel to the game that fits well with its fantasy knights and castles setting.
Locally or online, up to four players can work through the game together. Whilst not a new concept, this combines with the high production values to create a great social brawling experience. Early online experiences have been hampered by the inability to join someone else's game after they have started, and the slightly hit and miss party system, but these are likely to be patched in the early weeks after release.
Players will be attracted to Castle Crashers by both its reputation and good looks. Its distinctive art style and humour extends the excellent work of Alien Hominid. The exuberant chaos of the multiplayer experience is a sight to behold. Anyone looking for a brawler experience will have a great time here. Contrary to what their name suggests The Behemoth are a small playing in the video game world, but here they pull off something not even attempted by the large studios.
Single levels of the game can be completed in little over twenty minutes. But the real fun of brawlers is to experience the action as it gains pace and weight through subsequent levels. To truly appreciate the swelling mayhem as the game develops you really need to dedicate a whole evening with a few friends to the game.
By their nature brawlers are a contact sport. Very younger players may find some of the graphic cartoon violence a little much bear. There are often dead or dying comrades on the ground, as well as some faceless hooded enemies that, although styled with comedy in mind, can seem scary to more sensitive players.
Although there is very little here that goes beyond the Tom and Jerry style violence, the aesthetic of the game is that of outsized exuberance. This is something that affects the various hits and parries of each on screen character. A quick play through will alert parents to anything their offspring my be sensitive to.
Intermediate players will enjoy the game's low barrier to entry and steady learning curve. Starting with just two buttons for attack and one for jump helps players get to grips with the play style before more advanced combination attacks are introduced.
Expert players, especially those who enjoyed the earlier Alien Hominid will find a lot to get their teeth into here. Both in terms of a challenge play experience and an engaging comedy art style they will appreciate the effort that has been put into the whole package.
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