There's nothing like being a knight and slashing all those who oppose your kingdom.
If, back in the day, you enjoyed 2D linear scrollers like Golden Axe, then this brightly coloured arcade game will definitely appeal to you. Featured this week on the Xbox Live Marketplace, Castle Crashers is a fun game with lots to keep you hooked. The missions are many, long and guaranteed to keep you gunning for the total completion of the campaigns and achievement list.
The controls are simple, which adds to the ease of getting into the Castle Crashers world. When you start, you'll get to the usual options, and whether you choose single or multiplayer you will be given the choice of three game types: "All you can Quaff", "Arena", and the "Campaign Story Mode."
This is definitely one of the appealing features of this arcade game, because if you're split screening or playing on Xbox Live, the "All you can Quaff" gametype is an enjoyable distraction. You basically scoff down four different meals as fast as you can - or rather, as fast as you can hit the X and Y buttons.
The Arena game is also fun, but a little more challenging than simply punching buttons to eat. You basically fight waves of enemies in - you guessed it - an arena. It's a pretty simple level, and ultimately rather pointless as you can achieve the same sort of combat in the Campaign Story Mode.
The Campaign Story Mode makes up the bulk of the game, and it's actually fast paced enough to have you run through quite a few missions before you decide to give it a break. The story is relatively simple; an evil wizard has kidnapped the King's daughters, and as you're his top knight you're tasked with their safe return.
You begin the story mode by choosing a coloured character; each colour represents their magical power, either ice, poison, electricity, fire or summoning. These powers (like your strength, agility and defence) grow with the skill points earned at the end of every completed mission.
Along with your powers you have other things to help you slay your enemies: a wide array of weapons (which can be bought but are already easily found in many of the missions) and animal charms, which are like little guardian angels that shadow you and have different abilities to either assist you or attack the enemy.
As far as I’ve seen, the different coloured knights take the same path in the campaign mode, so there's no unique story paths with the individual characters. The missions are the same, so the variety here is the ability to kill the enemy with the different magic powers that each knight is equipped with.
Further to that, the different knights progress in skills and power levels individually, so you can buff one knight to a high level and leave all the others with base attributes if you simply want to specialise in one kind of attack.
Don’t be fooled by the colourful screenshots, you can decapitate your enemies and bash them repeatedly in comical fashion and the magical powers add spice to the fight. The game is not as easy as you’d expect, as you'll fight more and more characters at the same time, and eventually you'll find it hard to stay standing with all the arrows being shot at you by distant enemies. It's at this point you will appreciate your powers and guardian animal pets, which can give you the edge to survive when the going gets tough.
The mission selection screen is reminiscent of the Mario Brothers games, and the soundtrack is somewhat nostalgic of a time when games of this genre were mainstream, so it's great to see the developers have tried to maintain a tribute to titles of yesteryear.
The game is hard to rate on its individual components, but I can confidently state that as a whole it's a lot of fun. Having said that, after solidly playing it for a while, I just don't crave it like I do other games. If not for the challenging achievements and fresh take on every single level in the campaign mode, I don’t think I’d have played it as much as I have in the last few days.
It's not for everyone, but Arcade buffs should definitely stick the Castle Crashers trial on their “to download” list.