Castle Crashers (XBOX 360) Review

Well, this is sort of an unspectacular way to end the “Scrolling Sundays” feature, but having reviewed SoR4 alongside the other entries in that series, this is the latest scrolling beat ‘em up I can review. I do plan on buying both Scott Pilgram and River City Girls (plus play some of the countless ones I hadn’t played), but for now, this is how the weekly feature ends. Castle Crashers is a fun indy game, released at the time when indy games were just becoming a popular thing… So let’s take a look at it!

Background:

… Yep. That’s a… um… thing, alright.

Castle Crashers was first released on the XBOX 360 during the 2008 “Summer of Arcade” (remember those?) and then eventually taken across to the PS3 in 2010 and PCs in 2012.

A “remastered” version of the game was released for XBOX One in September 2015 (with a free update for PC players at the same time) and then eventually ported to the PS4 and Switch in September 2019. The remastered version has larger and sharper sprites and a new mini-game.

Gameplay:

My word, those people are trying to crash things into this castle!

Castle Crashers is a mix between the up-to-four player combat of the Simpsons and Turtles arcade games and a RPG-like stat raising seen in games like Knights of the Round and Guardian Heroes (there’s another game I didn’t include in this series, though due to not being able to play it any more rather than forgetting…) You have a melee button and a magic button, with each of the four knights having different spells that level up as you do, plus some combination attacks when two or more knights are near each other. A magic meter underneath the health meter keeps track of how often you can use them and of course there are health and magic restoring items you can collect during battle. One of the more unique aspects of the game is the ability to find and even purchase new weapons for your chosen knight, rather than always having the same one. They can just be faster or slower versions of what they already had, but some can be completely different. You can also find animal companions or just gain special abilities from them. It certainly keeps you invested, which I guess is the modern aspects of gaming bleeding in.

There is an over-world map which is nice, and there are some mini-games you can unlock as well, like a wave survival mode or a button-mashing “eat as much food as you can” game, which can be fun… well, the survival mode one anyway, the other is sort of funny once… Due to the cartoony aesthetics and medieval-inspired setting there isn’t many scrolling beat ‘em up clichés, which is a shame in our final game on the list!

Graphics and Sound:

Did I mention the weapons shop is inside a giant lizard-thing? No? Oh well… it is.

The graphics are nice and clear, and have that 00s era American cartoon look that I never really got on with, mostly because as that started becoming the norm I’d moved away from cartoons (well… cartoons aimed squarely at children… not from Japan) Still, I can’t deny it looked great at the time, and still looks nice now (especially if you buy the remastered version, obviously)

Sound is good. Background music is catchy, sound effects are often amusing… It’s good, and when looking at how few people were involved in making the game, something of a triumph, especially given small indy developers were far rarer those days…

Story:

A traumatic time indeed… I guess.

The story is intentionally left simplistic. Four knights are tasked with saving a Princess who was captured by an evil wizard. The four knights travel across the land and fight various medieval fantasy (and some Sci-fi) creatures before defeating the wizard. The knights then fight for a kiss from the princess, Double Dragon style, but then the Princess turns out to be some sort of weird clown thing as we go to credits. Okay, so maybe that last bit wasn’t so simplistic…

Downloadable Content:

There were several DLC packs released for the game, each adding additional playable characters, new animals and weapons. These characters and items are included in the later versions of the game as a complete package, so you don’t have to worry about it nowadays.

Thoughts Then:

Are those lightsabres, or merely “laser swords”? … actually given the setting they’re probably just “magic swords”, but whatever.

My friend Tom is the one who actually brought it, and we both played through it several times over a week or two. It was good fun, very nostalgic given at that point the scrolling beat ‘em up was completely dead… Once again I was hopeful that this was “open the flood gates” for more like it, but… nope. Not until the last year or two has that happened…

Thoughts Now:

A lovely place to have a duel… or three… with weird robots and bee-things.

Castle Crashers in 2021 isn’t very different, it’s still varied and worthy of several replays with some fun graphics (even more so if you buy the remastered version, by the looks of things), 12-ish years haven’t changed that. A good game to end on, in terms of how good the actual game is, if not due to any kind of real nostalgia for it.

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