Castle Crashers isn't a new game by any stretch of the imagination, it was released on Xbox Live Arcade just over two years ago. However, in their infinite wisdom, The Behemoth have finally decided to bring the game over to the PlayStation Network, enabling many more gamers to experience the delights of their quirky sense of humour.
Said humour becomes apparent very quickly as players embark on a quest which, well, involves beating up numerous people. There is some slight justification for this though, as the antagonists have stolen all the kingdom's women! Naturally, you want them back and that's all there is to it.Remarkably, it's a quest that will take the "Castle Crashers" to various locales to fight against weird and wacky foes - some of which make cameo appearances from other The Behemoth properties. Just don't expect anything serious or engaging from the game.
To the game's credit though, there are a ton of levels and the enemies that are encountered throughout offer a ton of charisma and variety, despite none of them ever really saying anything. Their mannerisms and design speak louder than any syllables ever could.
The gameplay harkens back to the good old days of side-scrolling beat 'em ups as each of the characters has a limited array of moves available to them. They can perform a quick attack, a heavy attack, use magic, use an item and jump. As the characters level up they gain access to a few combos, but most of the time it's easy to just stick to the button mashing to take down foes - it's where the most damage can be generated.
There are four stats to level up: Strength, Magic, Defence and Agility. Strength affects physical damage; Magic affects magical damage and allows access to more powerful spells; Defence increases physical resistance and health; and Agility improves movement speed, while also increasing proficiency with the bow. The changes are very noticeable, especially with the bow. What starts off as a limp projectile quickly turns into a speeding bullet that can be spammed out with considerable speed.
Some might be concerned with the life-span of such a setup. Games like this are prone to monotony, but where Castle Crashers dispels this is with the variety of enemies. They will always be sneaky and will force players to either block or move to a more advantageous position to attack when and where it's possible. It's never just a case of simply pressing the attack button, as while this situation does occur, there's usually a lot of other stuff going on that would render that strategy redundant.
It's also why the animals can be rather useful. Each character can have an animal associated with them, which can give them enhanced abilities or perform a task. The enhanced abilities might be the ability to walk quickly on water, while a task might be to knock opponents over or pick up items automatically. Said items are usually weapons, but can sometimes be health or money too.
The amount of weapons in the game is mind boggling and they all have their own positive (or negative) attributes. And of course, an interesting design. Players can find weapons on the battlefield and then go back to check them out in a giant frog's stomach - lovely. It's a shame that weapons are the only thing that's really customisable, but on the same note, it's difficult to think what else could be customised.
As touched upon earlier, the art style and quirky nature of the game is a real plus point. The first boss, for example, is a shining example of this. He greets players, only to be crushed by a door with a huge smiley face, which then presents the actual boss. Players will also be greeted by animals with severe bowel problems and that's just the start. Some of it just can't be described, so for now, penguins will just be a key word that you'll have to play the game to understand.
The game takes around 3-4 hours to complete on the standard difficulty mode, but there is a ton of replay value for those who're interested. The only problem is that it's difficult to see anyone being that bothered. Insane mode is an option, where enemies have a ton more health, but the only reason to keep playing is to either a) level characters up to the maximum level or b) to unlock all the different characters. Aside from this, there are also some mini games like volley ball, but again, they probably won't entertain for that long.
Castle Crashers hits a lot of the right notes. Its gameplay is fun and addictive, there is a progression-based system and the art style/sense of humour will endear it to many. However, it's difficult to see anyone other than die hard gamers being interested in the game's replay value and without that proposition, the game is rather short. What's there though is great, so if you enjoy a good beat 'em up, check Castle Crashers out.