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Castle Crashers: A Look Back
The Behemoth’s first console game, Alien Hominid, was a cult success and set them on the path that eventually led to what many herald as the first must-own Xbox Live, 2008’s Castle Crashers. No game at the time featured such style and pure, simple fun in such a tight package, and players became infatuated with the action-RPG’s spectacular co-op adventuring. By 2011 the company had seen 2.6 million copies of the game across Xbox Live marketplace and PSN (added in 2010). With The Behemoth’s newest game, BattleBlock Theatre, finally getting a release date of April 3, 2013, we felt it was worth taking a look back at what made Castle Crashers work.
For starters. the game saw no reason to feature a significant story, aside from a big bad guy and a stolen princess, but it made up for all of that with a hilarious atmosphere. From a scared deer firing bloody stools, to the endless parade of goofy enemies sent at you with overwhelming odds, the game was constantly amusing, funny, and engaging. Travelling among deserts, castles, snowy fields, and other various landscapes, the 2D silliness never grew stale, especially when playing co-op with your friends.
And that’s the thing: The Behemoth seems to excel at creating co-op that feels necessary, yet also not. Sure, you could play the game solo, maybe dying a few times, but ultimately prevailing. Or you could gather one (or three) friends and tackle the game’s onslaught together, levelling up various stats that actually made you feel more powerful. By the end of the game, you could easily feel like an unbeatable team, and that was the feeling that made the second playthrough (a harder version of the game) even more enjoyable, as you and your friends tested your previous power against more challenging enemies. Better yet was the feeling you got when you and your friends beat a major boss and realized you’d have to fight each other to the death to win her royal kiss is unforgettable.
Another selling point was the fact that so many different characters could be unlocked, adding infinite replayability, because testing the abilities of that new guy was so alluring. Sure, your level 34 orange knight with his epic fire spells is awesome, but that ninja you just unlocked wields shurikens and a sai. Even better was the fact that unlockable characters weren’t the only extras the game offered. Dozens of varied weapons for different playstyles could be found and swapped, along with a multitude of special animals that you could equip to follow on your journey, each with a special boon. The combinations were endless, and that spoke wonders for a game with such simplistic base gameplay.
But it was that simplistic base gameplay that actually set the game above so many others at the time. Much like the old Ninja Turtle games of the NES and SNES generation, Castle Crashers was a 2D beat-em-up with combat taking place across any point on the map. The action was frenzied and hilarious, and equally as challenging. The simple joy of mowing down enemies and then discovering that new weapon they dropped was a triumphant moment that has rarely been duplicated with such precision.
So far, The Behemoth looks to be recapturing all these things with BattleBlock Theatre. The zany co-op adventure and bizarre characters already look on par with what Castle Crashers delivered in spades. This time around, the new game will feature a level editor, adding a whole new way to experience multiplayer association in an indie game. Games like LittleBigPlanet have had soaring success because of editing tools, so this could mean big things for a game with a smaller budget. Time will tell if lightning can hit twice, but even if it doesn’t, Castle Crashers will stand as a beacon for independent gamers looking for a truly special gameplay experience.
BattleBlock Theater releases April 3, 2013 on Xbox Live and potentially other platforms.