Review: Castle Crashers
After Alien Hominid made gamers across the world cry tears of pain, The Behemoth began work on a side-scrolling XBLA beat ’em up. But it hasn’t gone soft. Castle Crashers is a portmanteau scroller, taking ideas from across the gamut of the genre and repackaging them with first-class production values. The problem is that scrolling beat ’em ups, even the very best, have a few inherent problems: the main one being repetition – of enemies, of challenges, of level structure, of movesets. Does Castle Crashers have any solutions?
It certainly has a bash. The initial relatively standard sections give way to alterations of environment, perspective and objective that, at their feverish best, are breathless. You’ll be happily whomping through diminutive enemies one minute, scrabbling away from a screen-filling beastie the next, before surfing some hapless marine life into a confrontation with a monstrous catfish. You’ll cannon-blast into 2D scrolling sections before ruining a bad man’s wedding, dodge booby-traps in factories and bounce helpless enemies around with your companions. That latter point, however, is caveat to the whole of Castle Crashers: it’s at its best in multiplayer, where the occasional misstep in pacing is easily glossed over.
In singleplayer, it’s not the same. But there’s something else that completely determines what you’ll think of Castle Crashers: if you were that kid who was pulled away from the TMNT cabinets by an angry mum, who couldn’t wait for Golden Axe to appear on a home console, and who played Streets Of Rage 2 over and over, Castle Crashers is for you. It’s from a long-dead genre, but because of that its constant references, both mechanical and stylistic, are as much homage as games can produce. It’s not perfect, then, but nor were any of its influences in the first place.