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Castle Crashers is a rolling maul of a game that oozes charm and style. But if you want to get the most out of it you need three friends to join you in front of your TV.
Castle Crashers is the second game from indie developer The Behemoth, who previously created Alien Hominid HD. Like Alien Hominid HD, Castle Crashers is a side-scrolling hack and slash that takes its cues from 16-bit classics like Golden Axe and Streets of Rage. You play a Knight who needs to rescue the princess and stop the bad guy (ed: revolutionary stuff). The narrative is paper-thin, but chances are you won't be playing for the story.
I knew that Castle Crashers featured couch co-op support. So being the gentleman that I am, I invited three of my best mates around to join me in the aforementioned crashing of castles.
After taking up our positions on the sofa we fired up the game. Immediately though, things came to a complete standstill as we squabbled over who would get to play as which character. This was something that hasn't happened to me for a long time, and it took me to back to the pre-Internet days of Gauntlet and Quartet. I eventually persuaded the others to let me be the Red Knight, a small victory I think - everybody knows shooting lightning from your hands is totally bad-ass.
Castle Crashers is a really simple affair that comes down to manic button mashing. Although I personally like my combat systems to be a little more complex, the simplicity here makes things more about timing than memorising long combinations and is certainly easier for non-gamers to get involved.
Quirky humour that runs throughout the game that kept us all laughing on our quest for the princesses.
In fact, while we let our fingers do the talking on-screen it meant we could chat and laugh with one-another as we did it. I think rowdy is the word that best sums up the mood of that night, something that I think my parents will attest to. I've honestly never heard the phrase 'Boo-ya' shouted so much in life.
As you dispatch each enemy you slowly level up your character - and can spend points on upgrading different abilities. This made things more competitive as we each fought to out level one-another in a race to the new moves and extra damage each upgrade offered.
Upping the competitive element further, the game twists the co-op mechanic on its head at the end of certain stages by forcing you to do battle with your friends. These sections were welcomed by all of us and gave us chance to get our own back against those who had been swiping all the collectibles.
Everything is rendered in a great animated style, complete with a vibrant colour palette that helps it stand-out from the desaturated action titles we've seen of late. There is also a thread of quirky humour that runs throughout the game that kept us all laughing on our quest for the princesses.
Nothing beats playing a game with a group of friends huddled around the same TV.
Castle Crashers can (technically) be enjoyed as a solitary experience, but honestly after experiencing the chaos of co-op, playing it on my lonesome felt really dull. Trudging through the levels, mindlessly button-mashing my way through dozens upon dozens of enemies, the grind of it all really became rather boring.
In addition to the main campaign Castle Crashers features a couple of competitive multiplayer modes. While bonus content is always a welcome addition, these game types do feel something of an afterthought.
We had a blast playing Castle Crashers. It's a game designed with co-op in mind and should almost certainly played that way. It's great to see that couch co-op games can work in the age of the Internet. As great as Xbox Live or PSN is, nothing beats playing a game with a group of friends huddled around the same TV.
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