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Most video game aficionados recall the days when you would travel over to the house of a friend with a controller in hand to settle down to a few of hours of  “hack n’ slash” via Gauntlet.  Gauntlet was the first game of its kind where fighters took on swarms of enemies with no one but their fellow players to help.  The game’s intensity and its disregard for any logical storyline made it an arcade classic. Now, those great days of the past are back with Castle Crashers.  This game revives old action game genre and breathes some much needed new life into the classic adventure video game.

Developed by the Behemoth, the independent developer and creator of Alien Hominid, Castle Crashers was published on Xbox Live Arcade in 2008. The game follows the video game adage of the 1980s and 1990s, i.e. light on story and heavy on action and entertainment.  The back story begins as an evil wizard steals a large diamond from the King (the importance of this action remains unknown, even at the end of the game).  Your job, of course, is to get it back, in addition to also saving and romancing four kidnapped princesses.  You are able to be one of four different colored knights.  As the game progresses, you have the ability to unlock other characters.  Truth be told, the cast of characters is immense.

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Castle Crashers is a breath of fresh air when compared to some other “doom and gloom” games like Golden Axe or Conan, both games that focus more on drama and gore rather than humor and fun.  Castle Crashers is a light-hearted game and that keeps a sense of humor throughout.  The action remains fluid and the game play is quick.  However, there is a glitch or two to be noted.  For instance, I found that taking the potion to replenish my health could be “touchy.”  I knew I had hit the button to replenish my “life,” but I ended up dying anyway.
 
In the game, the player can obtain four different abilities: strength, magic, defense, and agility.  In my opinion, the magic ability is the best, and getting the ability early will ensure your quick progression through the game. Another nice feature is the vast arsenal of weapons that you can collect. As of this writing, I had cached around forty different weapons, with plenty left to find.   The player can also collect around twenty different animals that have their own unique abilities. Some will amplify your attack abilities, some will help you find weapons, and others will go after your enemies themselves.

In terms of graphics, Castle Crashers reminds me of the game Braid being that the focus is more on art and style rather than pushing the graphics processor of your 360 to meltdown mode.  The style is unique and playful and only serves to add to the wit of the game. The music is upbeat and accomplishes the task of getting the player engaged in the action. The storyline is undemanding and it is refreshing to play something that did not involve a lengthy plot development.

To summarize, it seems plenty of people out there are looking for the same thing in a video game.  Castle Crashers was the most downloaded Xbox Live Arcade Title of 2008.  It is the game for you if you are looking for tight and fluid game play, unique characters, as well as light-hearted humor and attitude.  Download it, invite three friends over, and get down to some nice, reminiscent “hack n’ slash.”

Photo courtesy of www.thebehmoth.com

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