Developer: The Behemoth / Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment / ESRB: Teen (Blood and Gore, Cartoon Violence, Crude Humor) / Played on: PS3 / Price: $14.99
Heads will fly, blood will be spilled, and a princess will be kissed in Castle Crashers, the newest downloadable game for the PS3. Once an Xbox 360 exclusive, Castle Crashers harkens back to the SNES-era of gaming with its simple art style, easy-to-play controls, and multiplayer friendly gameplay. PS3 fans waited two years to get their hands on this game, but has the wait improved upon the original or left the game in ruins?
It’s hard to mistake Castle Crashers for any other game when you see it. It successfully combines the old-school style of beat-em ups like Final Fight yet still retains the HD graphics you’d expect to see from the current generation of systems. If you’ve played developer The Behemoth’s other game Alien Hominid you’ll see a great similarity artistically between the two. Gorgeous backgrounds and vibrant colors help to make the game visually pleasing. Flames rise from burning carriages, blood spews from the severed heads of fallen enemies, and the landscapes are vivid. The cartoony graphics style fits with the game’s tongue-in-cheek style humor. Nothing seems to have been lost in the transition from Xbox to PS3 as the games look identical.
Castle Crashers is a hack-and-slash adventure akin to the Double Dragon and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games on the NES, except with gorgeous HD visuals. You’re prompted to select a character, each identical for the most part aside from their color and magical abilities. As you go through the game you’ll encounter a variety of enemies from the bow and arrow wielding thieves to the stout reanimated skeletons. Several boss battles add variety to the gameplay; for example one battle against a giant cat is fought entirely in a river as you are flowing down it. It is a rather simple style of gameplay that never manages to get irritating or repetitive, thanks a great deal to the array of combo moves and weapons you can use. As you kill enemies you’ll gain experience and achieve new levels, earning new combos to slaughter your enemies as well as points to customize your castle crashers. These points can be used to improve your health, defense, magic, or speed. Enemies also drop gold that you spend on items like health potions and even new weapons. Also located throughout the game are pets to aid your quest that each have a unique ability, like the ram’s dash attack or the puffer fish’s increased defense. Putting all of these pieces together, as well as a multitude of unlockable content, creates a game that is very rewarding to play and never gets old, even on repeat playthroughs.
Outside of the main quest there are a few other modes. The Arena is available for anyone that wants to take their hardened castle crasher up against other players from around the world in a four-person free-for-all to see who is the strongest. New to the PlayStation 3 version is Volleyball, which is exactly as it sounds. Two teams of four battle it out in the sand, hitting the ball back and forth, diving and spiking with their magic and weapons. Coming as the sole new mode for the PS3, it’s a shame that more wasn’t added, but the core game is still a fantastic experience.
It is clear from the very beginning that Castle Crashers is meant to be played with up to three friends, whether over PlayStation Network or locally. Connecting with other players and pummeling evil is an absolute blast, easily the most fun I’ve had playing online over the whole summer. Hopping online and joining a game is easy, and I experienced very little to no lag. The game does a good job of scaling difficulty when playing with others, adding more enemies in certain sections and increasing the drop rate of items. Playing with other people makes the experience much more manageable especially later in the game, where it is near impossible to win by yourself. Creating a lobby, joining a game, and inviting friends are simple. Arena and Volleyball are also available to play online, but I found these modes to be a bit harder to find players. As far as multiplayer experiences go, Castle Crashers is a game that any fan of multiplayer party-like games should not pass up.
Castle Crashers handles just as well as other games in the genre. You can do regular attacks, strong attacks, or a combination of both to dole out the damage. Holding down the R2 button activates your magic attacks. The L1 and R1 buttons cycle through your secondary items like your potions and bow. Nothing feels out of place with the controls, which are tight and responsive. The easy-to-learn controls help make the game accessible to new and old players alike. Overall the game handles very well.
Castle Crashers for the PS3 is a fantastic downloadable game that is well worth the price of admission. If you have the game on the Xbox 360 there really isn’t much new content to warrant buying the game again, but if this is your first time reading about the game then don’t hesitate to buy it. Fans of old-school classics like River City Ransom will fall in love with the addictive gameplay and the beautiful art style. If every downloadable game had this much content and was such a blast to play we’d never leave our couch.