Castle Crashers Review: River City Remembered
In a few years, “Castle Crashers” won’t be remembered for its amazing story, or its ground breaking controls. No, the reason “Castle Crashers” will be remembered, and it’s perhaps the best possible reason for people to remember a game, is because it’s smashtastically fun. It’s a great game to play alone, with friends, or online, and you can keep playing it over and over. Add to that a persistent sense of homage to one of the greatest games of all time, “River City Ransom” and “Castle Crashers” is a quality follow-up to “Alien Hominid.”
Some people have complained that “Alien Hominid” was too hard, but those people just forgot how grueling great games used to be (go play the original “Ninja Gaiden” for 20 minutes and you’ll remember). Just because a game is hard doesn’t mean it’s not good. Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending on your stance on challenging games) “Castle Crashers” doesn’t suffer from the punishing level of difficulty that “Alien Hominid” made so memorable. It’s a bit more accessible, partially due to the fact that you have the ability to level up your character. However, that doesn’t mean the game is a cakewalk.
Each character has four different upgradable skills - strength, magic, defense, and agility. In the tradition of “action-RPGs” (of which I wouldn’t consider “Castle Crashers” to be) there’s a fairly straight-forward XP system, where your hits and kills contribute to your experience, which then allows you to level. As you advance, your character can take on stronger enemies, and the stronger enemies provide more XP to level up and advance, and so on and so forth. It’s simple, easy, and straight to the point, which is something a game like this needs to be, as there isn’t really much more substance beyond hitting things repeatedly with your weapon of choice.
In addition to the experience system, the story is as straightforward as they come. A bad guy has stolen your kingdom’s giant (one can only assume life-giving) diamond thing, as well as kidnapped the princesses, and it’s you’re job to make everything right. The journey takes you to all different kinds of worlds - most of which you’ve seen in other games - deserts, ice, lava, and even outer space. However, Dan Paladin’s unique art style helps make them feel like new environments, unless you played a lot of “Alien Hominid.”
Some of the best parts of the game for retro fans out there were the similarities to the Technos classic “River City Ransom.” While I may have gone out of my way to pick them out, since I’m a bit partial to “RCR,” there seemed to be constant reminders at every turn of the game. Aside from the basic beat ‘em up gameplay that both have in common, there’s a long list of similarities, the best of which is during the initial load of the game where the creators, Dan Paladin and Tom Fulp are credited with a very “River City Ransom”-esque screen. “Castle Crashers” is a must-play for any fans of Alex and Ryan’s original 8-bit adventure.
“Castle Crashers” isn’t game of the year just yet, there were a few problems with the game that hampered the overall experience. First of all, getting into an online match seemed rather difficult - while I understand that there may have been no one else searching for a game when I did, I find it a bit hard to believe. In addition to that, the game glitched out right at the end of a particularly trying boss battle in multiplayer causing more than a few choice words to be yelled as I turned off my 360. Both of these issues can be fixed very easily via a patch, and according to Behemoth, there is one on the way.
Overall, “Castle Crashers” borrows from a lot of other experiences, but it still manages to create something that is unique, creative, and, most importantly, fun. My advice to you is to find three other friends and get to crashing (and then pray the game doesn’t freeze as you beat one of the bosses). Then, after you beat it, play through it again, on intense difficulty and find all the unlockables. Then, after you beat that, take your character online, and go head-to-head with other crashers and fight some arena matches. The game has a lot of replay value which is what helps give it a strong 14 out of $15*.
*TrueGameHeadz reviews are based on a sliding scale to help you, the gamer, make better purchasing decisions. The review ratings are based on the cost of the game, so, if an Xbox 360 or PS3 game costs $60, they can get a rating of what the game should cost, somewhere in the range of 0-60. So for this review, “Castle Crashers” received a 14 out of $15, meaning the price that seems appropriate is $14, and if it is ever priced $14 it is a definite purchase. In more traditional terms, 14 out of $15 equals 9.3.