This review was originally posted on Gameworld Network.
Despite some bugs, you'll find a smorgasbord of excellent 2D animation, dramatic and powerful music, and hours of online fun.
From the minds that created Alien Hominid HD comes Castle Crashers, another cooperative cartoon-styled arcade hack-n-slash. This time, developer The Behemoth takes players back to medieval times, taking all the good qualities from Alien Hominid and making it more accessible to players.
Castle Crashers is a simple story of a set of heroes off to rescue four princesses and an unexplained yet very powerful crystal stolen from the kingdom. In their pursuit of the evil wizard, these heroes find new weapons, gain new strengths and abilities, and travel through the world, ridding of the wizard’s infamy that has spread throughout the land.
Humor plays through in nearly every scene, no matter how much animated violence is on-screen.
What Castle Crashers does is have The Simpsons arcade-esque gameplay with RPG elements. Players choose one of four (with more unlockable) characters, each with a unique magical ability, and level them up. Each level gives points to add to strength, defense, magic and agility (which is both movement and arrow-shooting speed).
The world is also filled with different weapons, each with magical qualities which enable them to add or subtract points to certain abilities. More powerful weapons have elemental powers, meaning one with ice may freeze enemies hit. On top of weapons, Animal Orbs, which also give players extra powers such as enhanced skills, finding secret items, regeneration and more, are to be found.
Bosses are easy to beat early on, but the later ones can be very difficult, even at higher levels.
Collecting is crucial to the game, with weapons and animal orbs, as well as standard health-replenishing food and money to buy such amenities as bombs, sandwiches (to temporarily make players super-buff), potions, and more weapons and animal orbs. Half the game is simply searching for all of these collectables, which is seen by the need to have one animal orb at certain points of the game to find certain items, as well as shovels to dig things up, bosses that use animal orbs or special weapons themselves…the list goes on.
The other half of Castle Crashers is playing with at least one friend, but preferably in teams of three or four. Playing alone is almost impossible unless players wish to grind their way to higher levels in order to withstand the punishment of so many attacking enemies at once, but that takes all the fun out of it. Gathering a group of friends for a simple yet exciting game with little to no thought required has been an excellent experience in our tests.
Action on-screen doesn't usually cause player confusion, but at times it can be overwhelming.
What hasn’t been fun is the glitchy nature of the game, especially online. A few errors linger within the single player or local coop campaign, but online multiplayer can be annoying to impossible. For those with frequent connection problems due to odd network configurations, your situation will likely be worse. We’ve had problems so bad that sometimes games couldn’t connect at all. At other times, they would start working, but drop random players or just not load the next level. Occasionally weapons or animal orbs retrieved wouldn’t save because of this. The worst I’ve experienced has been the screen showing a barrage of illegible colors, forcing me to exit to the dashboard and restart. Reports we’ve heard have the game ruining their entire hard disk, but those have been few and far between.
Castle Crashers is a smorgasbord of excellent 2D animation, dramatic and powerful music, and hours of online fun. Forgiving the difficulties online is too much to ask, but with a patch to fix them coming soon, there is no reason anyone with at least one friend on Xbox Live can’t enjoy Castle Crashers.
Lots of RPG elements; great replay value; simple and intuitive design; excellent music and visuals.
Glitchy; very problematic online play; on-screen action can be overwhelming at times.
Castle Crashers is a great XBLA title that nobody should miss out on.