Review: Castle Crashers

PS3 owners have waited a long time to get their hands on Castle Crashers, a side scrolling action game that was released on XBLA some time ago. Crashers aims to give players a fun and exciting experience with several ways to play, but does it justify it’s relatively hefty price tag?

Well if you want the short answer, yes it does. But for those with a few minutes spare, allow me to elaborate. Castle Crashers offers both single player and co-op, with the ability for up to 4 players all playing at once, either online or in the same room. The game is essentially the same in both modes, but as with most games playing with a few others makes everything far more enjoyable. The basic premise of the game is to rescue the princesses that have been stolen from your castle, and after selecting one of the available knights you start your quest.

Along the way you have to hack and slash your way through a huge variety of different enemies, each one having its own difficulties and dangers. You’ll move through some great looking environments and do battle with some huge bosses, and even the most bad-ass boss sticks to the brilliant artistic theme. The visuals are bright and crisp, making the experience massively more enjoyable as a result. Even the backgrounds which many people won’t ever look at are beautiful drawn and work brilliantly behind the action. Beating enemies will award you XP which helps you to level up. Doing so introduces an RPG element to the game (although it’s by no means an RPG) allowing you to improve your character’s strength, magic, agility and defence abilities in whichever way you decide. Whether you want a stronger character or one that can produce more powerful magic, it’s your call.

As for the magic itself, each knight has his own style of magic which is reflected in the style of his outfit. The yellow knight casts firey spells for example, meaning the knights have their own playing style as well as just looking different. As your level increases you learn new spells to attack the bad guys with, as well as being told about new combos for more standard attacks. Controls are brilliantly simple despite the variation and high number of attacking and defending options, and although it can feel a bit like a button masher at times it doesn’t take long to realise that a more controlled and thought out attack strategy works far more effectively. Things can get a little frustrating when there’s a lot going on and you get killed at the end of the level, more so when you see how far back you have to restart, but this is real old-style arcade action, and despite the odd annoyance it actually works well and is surprisingly addictive. There are so many ways to attack an enemy with the various combos, magic and jumping attacks that you’ll want to work out which way is the best option for your latest boss. Not only that, you can buy extra items such as potions to restore your health and bombs to drop in someone’s path, as well as upgrading your sword with clubs, fish and a range of other objects which alter your stats up or down depending on the weapon. These weapons, when found, get added to your weapons store where you can go back and change them between weapons, so it’s entirely possible to pick whichever tool you think will be most suitable for the levels ahead.

But the game’s real charm arrives when you get more people involved, which can be done either locally or online. Online games work fantastically well, with no discernible lagging or jerkiness in the other players, and the PS3 version has the extra modes to play that were DLC for the XBLA version which add to the multiplayer experience. As well as a one-on-one battle mode there’s an interesting volleyball mode whereby you thump the ball over the net in teams of 4. It’s quite fun initially but you won’t spend much time on it, you’ll be too engrossed working your way through the main campaign.

And even when you complete it, which you will within a few hours, you’ll be going back for more. As you beat the game further characters get unlocked, each with their own moves, characteristics and magic, and once you’ve played online with someone who’s got a huge collection of characters to pick from that you’ve never seen before you’ll be desperate to go back and win them for yourself. There are hidden items to find as you go through the game, and when you find spades, horns and other items later in the game you’ll be able to revisit earlier levels and find extras that weren’t available first time round.

From the very start Castle Crashers sucks you in and doesn’t let go. The levels are the perfect size to make you think you’ve got time to just beat the next one and before you know it two hours have passed. The replayability factor has been turned up to 11, and being able to play through with up to 3 other people is a great inclusion, even if things to get a bit crowded and confusing with the full compliment of players. Yeah it can be a bit of a button mashing frenzy, and it’s one of the more expensive PSN games but you’re getting some top quality fun for your money. Some people might also get annoyed by the unforgiving restart points, but these are small blips on an otherwise hugely successful title.

It might have taken a while to get to the PS3, but it was worth the wait. The Behemoth have answered the call, and delivered a beauty.

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