Castle Crashers

Castle Crasher Knights at Gamers with Jobs

"Conan, what is best in life?"
[b][i] "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!"

[/i][/b]

An unfortunate side-effect of the Great Arcade Implosion of Ought-Ought was the loss of a communal, physical, player experience. Gone are the days where the aficionado could stride into a dimly lit gaming paradise and make a brief but meaningful connection between Man (and Man, and Man and Man) and Machine. Today, we are content to sit on our sofas. Desperate for contact, we unfurl electronic feelers, listening to each other speak in glorious monophone. But there's hardly ever anyone at our side to cheer us on.

Once upon a time, the gamerkind clustered around arcade cabinets to watch as a quartets of mutants, superheroes, adolescent reptiles, or sword-and-spell archetypes laid waste to the forces of darkness. One was either in the thick of it - working with a group of strangers-turned-allies as quarters, and chances for success, rapidly diminished - or watched intently from the sidelines. In our innocence, we never had to worry about code instabilities or corrupted game data. Victory and crushing disappointment cemented the seams of our imagined community, a common goal united us in hope.

Castle Crashers evokes memories of brawlers long forsaken. If the Xbox could somehow emit a puff of nicotine-flavored smoke every half hour, I'd swear I was back in my favorite arcade circa 1992.

It's apparent that the guys at The Behemoth spent many a youthful hour beating the pulp out of generic baddies. One of their intro credit sequences pays homage to River City Ransom's character naming screen. There's also a level similar to Golden Axe's campsite stages, complete with annoying little thieves out to steal your loot, reptile creature rides and music. These little touches are uniquely comforting, like a secret pop-culture handshake accompanied by a knowing wink.

Plotwise, you're getting a thin justification to inflict violence upon others. An Evil Sorcerer steals the castle's four princesses and magic gem. Players retrieve them, acquire stat-boosting pets and weapons in the process, vanquish evil. Partying ensues. However, Castle Crashers shines when it comes to presenting a lively world and environments to slash through. Some may be dismissive of the pseudo Flash aesthetic, but Dan Paladin's art creates a charmingly diverse group of enemies to face, with nary a palette swap crutch to be seen. There's also a fair bit of humor to distract you from the button mashing, a true rarity in the genre.

As is the case with most beat 'em up brawlers, the “proper” way to play Castle Crashers is in a multiplayer environment, preferably with a squad of buddies on your couch, a pizza in the oven, and a smörgåsbord of chips and drinks at the ready. That's not to say that a single-player run is inordinately difficult or boring, (I've run through the game with 6 characters, myself) but a solo run can't accurately recreate the frantic chaos of having four separate color-coded knights trudging though the battlefield. That's the reason I bought the game. That's the reason I finally sprang for another wireless controller. Make no mistake about it, I wanted to hit people, and I wanted my roommates/anonymous Xbox Live partners to help me do it.

By the roommate metric, it's a rousing success. The online environment, that's a different story.

That The Behemoth, a development house composed of about half a dozen people, has delivered such a satisfying experience is worthy of much praise. Castle Crashers is only their second commercial release, yet it earned a prime spot amongst Microsoft's Summer of Arcade promotional event. It should be one of the success stories that Microsoft rolls out when touting the flexibility of the XBLA platform. How they managed to do it without causing the game's sole artist to develop crippling arthritis will forever remain a mystery. But the title isn't without its major failings.

The LIVE component is essentially broken. I've spent endless minutes trying to find other players to party with, only to be kicked back to a title screen because the lobby I was about to enter mysteriously vanished. Even if I find a group to adventure with, there's a particularly nasty bug prone to striking online players – one that deletes a person's weapons & animal orbs, and can reset their experience level back to square one. At times, it feels as if I'm playing Russian roulette with the progress I've made in the game. That's not really a feeling that's warm and fuzzy.

Thankfully these issues have been acknowledged by The Behemoth, and the team is currently working with Microsoft to get a patch up and out. I have no doubts that Castle Crashers will be a strong game eventually, especially if the title update includes a way to join a game from one's friends list (a-la Halo 3). When that update hits, I'll have no qualms about recommending it to others. But as it stands, the game feels woefully incomplete without a functioning, stable online component.

It's like I've made it to the last level and, as the continue countdown timer whittles away, I realize that I'm out of quarters.

Castle Crashers Title Screen at Gamers with Jobs
Castle Crashers Character Select Screen at Gamers with Jobs
Castle Crashers Mill Scene at Gamers with Jobs

Comments

Yeah, I'm sticking off line. I learned my lesson after the animal orb weapon bug zapped me. But great game other wise. I see myself playing until I get every character unlocked. Glad I have three controllers, too! Something to do outside marvel ultimate alliance!

Still no ETA on that patch, I take it?

Way to paint that nostalgic arcade picture. I was so jealous of the rich kids with all the quarters, until my local arcade starting allowing you to turn in your report card, giving out tokens for every A aquired. After that, it was the nerd who reigned supreme.

I love Castle Crashers, but I've only managed to play it with others once (and not at all over Live), here's hoping for that patch. Now I have to dig out all my MAME favourites: Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, Captain Commando, The Punisher, Alien vs Predator, Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder (clearly the best one in the series), Knights of the Round...

There's a variation on the multiplayer delevel in the single-player mode. At times (and I'm pretty sure that it's after you've successfully completed a stage in which you gained a level), the game doesn't automatically save your progress. I completed a large part of the game only to have to play it over again because my progress hadn't been automatically saved. Still, it's a delightful game, and I look forward to playing it more.

As you said, Castle Crashers is a fantastic homage to old-school arcade brawlers; and not a single one of those ever had online play. If this game had no online play at all, I certainly wouldn't think of it as incomplete-- and even though it does have online play, I've never felt any desire to play it online. Why would you, if you can play it with local friends? I suppose if you don't have any local friends that are interested in such a game, online play would be a major boon; but everyone with whom I've played Castle Crashers has absolutely loved it, and most of the people with whom I've played it aren't into games at all. The simplicity of the game, combined with its basic RPG elements and fantastic artwork, give it a unique appeal.

wordsmythe wrote:

Still no ETA on that patch, I take it?

I'm off the game until it's patched. I hope it comes before I completely loose my gamer momentum... Hurry Behemoth!

Byplay wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

Still no ETA on that patch, I take it?

I'm off the game until it's patched. I hope it comes before I completely loose my gamer momentum... Hurry Behemoth!

Same with me. There's a chance I'll play a little on a whim before that, but there's an awful lot of competition.

Some may be dismissive of the pseudo Flash aesthetic,

Are you talking about rabbit?

Very evocative pictures painted of life in the arcades, funnily enough I almost never went to arcades as a kid. My gaming is a far more recent development. But this makes me miss something I never had.

Nijhazer wrote:

As you said, Castle Crashers is a fantastic homage to old-school arcade brawlers; and not a single one of those ever had online play. If this game had no online play at all, I certainly wouldn't think of it as incomplete-- and even though it does have online play, I've never felt any desire to play it online.

You bring up a very good point.

When I would walk up to an empty Turtles in Time machine, I had no expectations. There was a very good chance that I would spend my 50 cents playing alone, but I would also be pleased if one or more folks decided to team up with me. If I wanted a guaranteed team-up, then I would have to do the organizing on the playground. There was no way for me to cheat and be autolinked with a game in progress in Las Vegas (as a random example).

However, those old cabinet favorites I remember had the benefit of sitting in locales that existed solely for the purpose of garnering gamer attention. By contrast, my living room doesn't experience that kind of foot traffic. I have roommates and the occasional friend, to be sure, but they have busy work schedules and social lives. It's like the playground legwork all over again.

But more to the point, my modern expectations have changed. My network of friends includes people I've either not seen for days/weeks/etc, but also people I've never met. I turn on my gaming console and I'm connected to a worldwide network of players. This is a potential source for numerous player experiences, so I think it's only natural that I look to that as an avenue of interaction for this game. I don't believe this could have been released without an online component (since, well, the XBLA port of Turtles Arcade patched in online support) in this day and age.

There's also the fact that the PR work for this touted 4 player Live support. While it's true that we can certainly play a number of multiplayer games at home with our friends, I think the option of playing online (with buddies or strangers) adds a little variety. Variety which I appreciate. I'd love to run a few levels with some GWJers, but that's easier said than done.

I respect that there are gamers out there that have no need for the online matchmaking service. But I think a number of people want to play with their online friends, they want to interact with others that were stoked for the title, and the condition of that feature as it stands is very lacking.

Alex ''Spaz'' Martinez wrote:

It's like I've made it to the last level and, as the continue countdown timer whittles away, I realize that I'm out of quarters.

Oh man!!

The memories of rushing to the coin exchange machine to too often come back to a Game Over screen you've brought up now. How crushed I would be when that happened...

Heck with playing this online... my younger brother and sisters have been having a blast with me. I'm buying a third controller used as soon as a good price pops up on [H]. It's nice to have a game I can play with them, I'll definitely be getting more Arcade games.

Did they ever patch the LIVE problem? A couple of friends and I are looking for a new co-op game, now that L4D is slowly loosening its hold on us.

Not sure, but I'm able to join in with friends pretty easily, I believe. Joining a pub game, though, I've yet to try again.

They did recently (within the past month i think) patch it and I think that was meant clean up the connection problems.

inspiringsn wrote:

They did recently (within the past month i think) patch it and I think that was meant clean up the connection problems.

They also got rid of the Boomerang glitch: the boomerang could get stuck between certain bosses and do continuous 1 dmg, while racking up the combo counter and paying off crazy good exp.

Anyone (such as myself) that was unfortunate enough to lose their character data... well, all those hours are just gone.

I lost around 40+ hours of gametime thanks to that, and the "fix" to the glitch effectively made it so I'd have to grind through 2-4x the time to make up for it. I'm really dissappointed in this game, as a result, and have since flipped my opinion.

The Behemoth unfortunately botched the multiplayer when it should have been rock solid. While they've fixed it now, the loss of data's really taken the shine off of the game. A lot of this is based on the really arcane save system the game had.

It's unfortunate, but I've deleted the game from my drive.

Also they've lost a lot of interest I imagine because all of the buzz has worn off and people have found other things to hold their interest now. I haven't deleted it off of my hard drive, but if I needed the space it would probably be one of the first things that I would remove.

See, I couldn't do that. I feel that I'd be throwing away my money if I were to simply delete something I bought, no matter if it was 4 months ago or 1 year. That makes me wonder about the logistics of trading XBL games for points/games. I'd probably do it, as long as MS doesn't go by Gamestop's resale structure...

Deleting it off of your HD doesn't mean you can't download it again for free...

Well I stand corrected. I'm always too afraid they aren't like Steam.

There are plenty of ways that XBL is not like Steam, but luckily this is not one of them.

WipEout wrote:

Well I stand corrected. I'm always too afraid they aren't like Steam.

I will add that, while you're free to redownload Marketplace/XBLA purchases you've deleted, if MS decides to scrub the game/whatever from their system, you're SOL.

Recall they trashed a bunch of underperformers earlier last summer...

Spaz wrote:
WipEout wrote:

Well I stand corrected. I'm always too afraid they aren't like Steam.

I will add that, while you're free to redownload Marketplace/XBLA purchases you've deleted, if MS decides to scrub the game/whatever from their system, you're SOL.

Recall they trashed a bunch of underperformers earlier last summer...

Hm. I didn't notice-- I'm not a big XBLA gamer, to be honest. I believe you, as that's definitely something MS would do, I simply never noticed. Honestly, I was hesitant to even buy Castle Crashers, and that's the only XBLA game I own except Hexic HD which came with the 360.

Spaz wrote:
WipEout wrote:

Well I stand corrected. I'm always too afraid they aren't like Steam.

I will add that, while you're free to redownload Marketplace/XBLA purchases you've deleted, if MS decides to scrub the game/whatever from their system, you're SOL.

Recall they trashed a bunch of underperformers earlier last summer...

I could swear that those who bought a discontinued game can still download it too. They only cut off new orders.

I could be wrong. I usually am.

Sorry for reviving an old, old thread, but recently, my brother got this for the PS3, and we haven't been able to put it down (thank god he lives a short 5min drive away). Even his wife, an avid-non-gamer, loves it, and favors Blue Knight.

It's incredible how such a simple, basic idea, one that was hatched and beaten to death nearly 25 years ago, still now, engrosses so many people. I can finally say that I've found a game's developer that has matured and aged with me, and caters to those aged tastes.

And yes, it had been a while since we got together with more than the two people to cheer and play a game. Not since we got together for Tekken matches, Silent Hill 2, where we turned off the lights, one played, the others watched (i had to put down the controller in the prison area).

It seems almost ridiculous that such a "childish" game works, but it's exactly that. It caters to our inner child, and for that I'm grateful. Hopefully we see more and more games were local multi is encouraged over online. I love online, but it's not the same thing. Beating your mate right next to you is a feeling of victory most awesome.

Kuddos The Behemoth, thanks for understanding what we aging gaming community loved about gaming in the good old days.

kexx wrote:

Sorry for reviving an old, old thread, but recently, my brother got this for the PS3, and we haven't been able to put it down (thank god he lives a short 5min drive away). Even his wife, an avid-non-gamer, loves it, and favors Blue Knight.

It's incredible how such a simple, basic idea, one that was hatched and beaten to death nearly 25 years ago, still now, engrosses so many people. I can finally say that I've found a game's developer that has matured and aged with me, and caters to those aged tastes.

And yes, it had been a while since we got together with more than the two people to cheer and play a game. Not since we got together for Tekken matches, Silent Hill 2, where we turned off the lights, one played, the others watched (i had to put down the controller in the prison area).

It seems almost ridiculous that such a "childish" game works, but it's exactly that. It caters to our inner child, and for that I'm grateful. Hopefully we see more and more games were local multi is encouraged over online. I love online, but it's not the same thing. Beating your mate right next to you is a feeling of victory most awesome.

Kuddos The Behemoth, thanks for understanding what we aging gaming community loved about gaming in the good old days.

I'm in a similar situation, playing via network with my brother. I just wish the game was longer.

Arise, thread!

Castle Crashers is coming to PC

Sweet Jesus yes. It's about bloody time.

Down to $9 in the Steam sale, very tempting.

Anyone else thinking of jumping?

Is the the "catch-all" for this game? Couldn't really find another thread.

Anyway, it's awesome. Gifted to me by a goodjer (thanks Donut), and finally played it with a group of 4 last night and had a blast.

I had only played the demo intro level on PS3 before, and when I got the game on PC played that plus one more level I think, just to try it out. But I'd never taken the time to check out a FAQ. I just chose Red Knight because red is my favorite color. I wasn't aware of all the different elemental strengths and all the unlockable characters. Holy crap this game has tons of replay.

Looking forward to a lot more play, both solo and coop, to unlock more and more characters, weapons, and animal pets. :cooL: