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Castle Crashers (Xbox 360) artwork

Castle Crashers (Xbox 360) review


"Flash games have become a kind of champion of lost productivity. Whether using them to milk the clock at work or to avoid that pesky learning thing in school, a massive time sink is perpetually just a click away. Utterly simplistic, these games are generally about the little things. It's not too often that you find anything unique, the real joy is instead in each game's individual quirks. "



Flash games have become a kind of champion of lost productivity. Whether using them to milk the clock at work or to avoid that pesky learning thing in school, a massive time sink is perpetually just a click away. Utterly simplistic, these games are generally about the little things. It's not too often that you find anything unique, the real joy is instead in each game's individual quirks.

Castle Crashers is basically the culmination of the art of flash games. It's deeper than most, sure, but only slightly. Luckily, it's not its depth that causes Castle Crashers to transcend its ilk. It's What it has done is take everything built up over years of bejeweled clones and simple beatemups and shooters, polish it to a dazzling shine, and then package it in a form good enough to actually feel worthy next to its console brethren.

It still looks like a flash game, though a very classy one. Everything in the world looks like it was scribbled by hand in photoshop, because it was, and it has an extremely exaggerated and cartoony style as a result. The four main knights all have these massive cylindrical helmets that are actually completely filled with massive cylindrical heads. If you flipped them upside-down, they'd never be able to get up. If only the evil wizard had thought of that.

All that cartoony simplicity is deceptive, however. There's a lot going on. Masses of characters, both friend and foe, are ever present. The small player force faces stiff odds, constantly assaulted by clouds of enemies. Everything from angry barbarians, to aliens, to ninja pirates on a Japanese longboat attack from all sides like swarms of angry bees. There's even a swarm of angry bees at one point, led by an armored beekeeper. Respite is rather unusual.

But even beyond the foreground chaos, there's life everywhere. The game is a treat to see in motion, and the emphasis in that statement is very much on motion. In the background, water moves, leaves rustle, animals frolic in the forest, entire wars are fought in the distance, masses of generic troops being destroyed by a giant robot battering ram, paintings in the background telling the tragic tale of the friendship between a guy you just killed and a massive robot golem who's out for your blood. Everywhere you can look is something worth seeing, animated by hand and wonderful for it. Just be careful not to gawk too long, lest you get killed by the snowball artillery of some enraged eskimos.

Pretty much everything in Castle Crashers hates you. Even the other players only stick by your side so long as there aren't any princesses nearby. Once you rescue a princess, you must battle for her affection, with the winner getting a hot kiss. What all those baddies have in common is that they need a good thrashing, and conveniently enough they're all between you and the wizard who ransacked your castle. If there's one thing knights of the realm hate, it's being interrupted while partying. So when a wizard steals the castle's treasure, you set out with your conveniently colored pals to save the day. And the princesses.

It still plays like a flash game, but a very deep one. Each knight has their own unique elemental powers, but they all play similarly. The only significant difference being the effects their moves have. Lightning stuns enemies, holding them in place while they're electrocuted, while poison slowly eats enemies from the inside. While the core gameplay is the same for all the characters, your tactics will differ depending on what character you choose.

It's about as much of a button masher as you want it to be. You can flail away and have some success, but the real mastery comes from all the combos. Using your special jumps and magical attacks will result in much more damage than half hearted flailing away at the buttons. It also allows you to control the swarm of enemies to some extent. A huge mob becomes much easier to handle when half of them are frozen in ice or reeling from an explosion.

Castle Crashers isn't quite a flash game. It's something better. It's not a game you reach for simply because it's more appealing than your other daily doldrums. It's a game you instead reach for because you know that while it's on, you'll be having a good time, plain and simple. The laughs you get are very delicious icing.

Rating: 9/10

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Community review by dragoon_of_infinity (November 15, 2008)

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