Castle Crashers

Genre: 2D Beat ’em Up, RPG, Action-Adventure

Original Release: August 27, 2008

Developer: The Behemoth

Publishers: The Behemoth, Microsoft Game Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, macOS, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4

Played on: PC, Nintendo Switch

They aren’t kidding, controller is best.

I remember going over to my sister’s place back in mid-2008 or so. My brother-in-law, my sisters and I sat down and played a new game called Castle Crashers. I wasn’t sure how to feel at first, but after the first level I was absolutely hooked. And I think it’s safe to say that it’s one of my favorite games to date.

Castle Crashers is a mixture of 2D fighters like Final Fight or Streets of Rage, RPG elements, and a fantasy adventure with a surprisingly fitting artstyle. It’s also for up to four players, and as you could probably imagine, chaos ensues.

Except for the start, anyway.

The main story of the game, while not vital to its enjoyment, is that an evil wizard has stolen your castle’s crystal as well as the four princesses. You and your three fellow knights have to fight your way through hordes of barbarians, thieves, and so many more strange and unusual members of the world (including beekeepers for some reason) in your quest to reclaim what was taken. And each of the main knights has a unique kind of magic. The Green Knight (my personal preference of the default group) utilizes poison and deals damage over time, Red Knight uses electricity and can hold enemies in place, dealing damage with each tick, Blue Knight uses ice and freezes enemies for a time, Orange Knight uses fire and deals damage over time like Green Knight, Pink Knight does finger guns that launch rainbow arches and knock enemies back, and the Blacksmith (shown above, in purple) summons his pet frog to hit his foes with its tongue. I wish I had a screenshot of that one. It was very silly.

A big part of the charm of Castle Crashers comes from its aesthetics. Newgrounds creator Tom Fulp and artist Dan Paladin teamed up as Designers for this project, and it shows in the music choice as well as the art. All of the music used in-game is taken from Newgrounds creators like Waterflame, ParagonX9, and more, and Dan’s art style makes the game stand out especially well among other indie titles.

Some of these are concept sketches, others are references to Newgrounds characters like The Clock Crew and Tricky the Clown. Search that last one at your own risk. Very NSFW.

There’s also a ridiculous amount of replayability. In addition to the aptly titled Insane Mode, completing the game with a particular character will unlock a new character, who will in turn unlock another character. For example, completing the game with the Green Knight will unlock the Royal Guard, who in turn unlocks the Saracen. Similarly, certain levels in normal mode will unlock a character, and completing each of the five arenas across the world while playing solo will net you another character with their own unlock tree, and there are more characters to unlock through Insane Mode. I wouldn’t advise doing that alone though. It’s literally insane.

So with all of this praise I have for the game proper, I do have to point out that I had some issues with it. Last night, my friends and I were playing the Remastered version on the Switch and there were points where the music was entirely absent. We checked the game audio settings and it was set to the max, so that wasn’t it. Home Castle and the world map were deafeningly silent, as was the first miniboss you encounter. On top of that, somehow I got stuck with water physics toward the end of Thieves’ Forest despite being out of the water. It made the boss fight at the end annoyingly difficult.

I don’t know how it happened, I just got hit into the river right before this moment and it stuck with me the rest of the time. Player 4 had the seahorse at the time, too.

On top of that, I kept getting the medic achievement popup, despite having received that achievement much earlier in the run.

The rain just after this scene also triggered some nasty visual lag for the remainder of the level.

We stopped just after this and while we had fun, that fun was marred by the number of technical issues we ran into in the Switch version. So while I can recommend this game without any doubts, I would advise maybe steering clear of the Switch version? The PC version got the remastered update anyway, so it may work to your advantage.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to it. I unlocked a very important character the other day and it’s only fitting to start my run with them.

Yep. It’s a skeleton.

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