When Castle Crashers first released, I thought whoa. A 4 player side-scrolling beat-em-up with light-RPG elements from the dudes who brought us Alien Hominid? Do you need to see my geek card? Oh, I left it at home, but here’s a picture of me at 12-years-old spending all of my allowance by pumping quarter-after-quarter into The Simpsons arcade game. Now give me the demo to this Castle Crashing thing! But then, well, I played through the demo, and bleh. When that little blurb popped up telling me to drop 1200 Microsoft Spacebucks to continue the cartoony adventure, I respectfully declined.
A couple months back, Castle Crashers was the deal of the week, and at 800 Spacebucks, even games that make you go bleh suddenly feel like a reasonable purchase. I convinced a good friend to pick it up as well, and we started playing through the campaign in co-op. Several patches since launch, and the online multiplayer now worked like a charm. Also charming? The art-style, the simple but ridiculous story, the potty humor, the light RPG elements, and the just-deep-enough-to-keep-me-from-killing-myself-with-boredom button-mashing combo-system.
Over the course of a few evenings we played through the entire game. I chose the red knight, who uses lightning magic, and I had a pretty good time stumbling through the adventure. Even though I had fun, it was very much a game that I could only play for an hour or so at a time. Eventually my co-op partner and I would hit a boss, die horrifically, and I would have zero motivation to play through the whole level over again. So we’d call it a night, until the next day when we’d try it again, this time with slightly more experience than when we had last died (even when you die, your character carries over all earned xp) and we would eventually stand triumphantly… until the next ridiculously difficult boss.
I didn’t TRULY get into Castle Crashers until after I beat the game. We returned to our weapon storage areas and animal caves to see that there were still a lot of weapons we hadn’t collected and animal friends we hadn’t found. Plus, by completing the campaign, I had unlocked a new character. The more I played, the more I started to see the depth, with 20 characters to unlock and level up, 26 animals to find, and 64 weapons to brandish, it isn’t a game that you really see in its entirety the first time through.
Originally I grabbed the game on sale, but now I’ve bought it again at full price to gift to a friend, because I need more troops to crash these castles with. The simplicity, which originally turned me away, is now why I recommend it. I look forward to seeing what this indie team crunches out next, and they should know, I’ll be there on day one. Now if I could only get that Simpsons Arcade Game port.