Castle Crashers Retrospective Dakota Corley September 1, 2015 Opinion With Castle Crashers Remastered looming, I felt like it was a great time to look back on this early indie gem and remind people of what made it so great in the first place. Crashers is a game that’s emblematic of the potential of indie gaming – a game made by a small, independent team without a proper publisher that soared to the top of sales charts and deep into the hearts of players. However, before we talk about the game too much, I’d like to go over what we’ll be getting out of its remastered version. So, what can we expect from Castle Crashers Remastered? Current-gen console support for one – Xbox One owners, currently stuck without, are the main focus here since the game was abandoned with Xbox Live Arcade. Steam owners will receive Remastered’s enhancements for free at a later date and currently there is no word on a Playstation 4 release. Textures will receive a massive upscale as the game will display just barely over five times as many total pixels and at a juicy 60 frames per second, a welcome upgrade from the base game’s 30. Another welcome addition is Back Off Barbarian, a replacement for All You Can Quaff where players are timed while avoiding enemies in a sort of sudden-death tag. To top it all off, additional characters are added to the initial playable roster, like Pink Knight, who was originally paid DLC. Behemoth hasn’t commented yet on the game’s controls but I’m hopeful they’ll be improved in the Steam version which is nigh unplayable without a controller. Back Off Barbarian showing its chops. Clearly, for superfans and newcomers alike, there’ll be plenty to offer in the coming days for Castle Crashers. There’s no word yet on a release date for Remastered, but that’s even more reason to jump back into the action or even for the first time, while we wait. If the remastered news isn’t enough, here’s a bunch of information about the game and its origins to perk you up: Castle Crashers developer The Behemoth took shape in 2003 as members of the team faced layoffs due to consolidation. Instead of looking for work at a different company, creators Tom Fulp, Dan Paladin, John Baez, and a few others set out on their own in a world where indie games didn’t really exist. Behemoth funded their first game, Alien Hominid, out of pocket and managed to publish it on all three sixth generation consoles (Xbox, Playstation 2, and Nintendo Gamecube.) That feat made them one of the first indie developers to hit the scene in 2004. Fast-forward to 2008. Xbox Live Arcade is in full swing, hosting plenty of classic ports such as Doom and smaller indie titles like Small Arms and Cloning Clyde. On August 27nd, Castle Crashers was released as part of the Summer of Arcade event and quickly became one of the most popular games on XBLA, moving a whopping 2.6 million units by the end of 2011. At the time, it was the bestselling game on XBLA, outmatched only by the (free) Doritos Crash Course. “At the time, it was the bestselling game on XBLA…” Clearly, this game’s got something going for it and it’s immediately obvious why. Players will first notice its visuals, highly stylized by artist Fulp in his cartoonish approach. Lovingly crafted enemies flood the screen during gameplay and battles are a sight to behold as players mow down the hordes with might, magic, and the occasional boomerang. Gameplay-wise, Crashers is a beat-’em-up through and through, peppered with light RPG elements. As mentioned before, tons of enemies are thrown at the player as they attempt to rescue four princesses from an evil wizard. Along the way players can level up and build their four stats: strength, magic, defense, and agility. Hardly noticeable at first, character stat changes become really significant later on. For example, a high agility character can zip around the map and shoot arrows faster than anyone else. However, players will eventually max out all of their stats leaving individual characters who are left to stand on their own merits. Crashers’ chiptune soundtrack matches the action perfectly and is also really fun to listen to. Unfortunately some of the tracks get repetitive to the point of getting annoying. This is particularly true with the overworld map theme. Luckily almost every level has a unique theme , with some of the best ones coming from boss battles. Be careful around the barbarian boss’s flaming belches. The game’s bosses are one of its biggest highlights, showing up every other level or so. Some, like the Catfish, force players to rethink strategies as they cope with changing landscapes, while others like Pipistrello or the Industrialist Prince switch it up with different attacks. Ultimately, each boss forces players to change their playstyle and work together. – that is if they’re not playing solo. Those who want to play by themselves can do so, but it’s not nearly as easy. Potions can’t be used automatically as in multiplayer, and death here requires one to start scenes from the beginning. Multiplayer is one of the most important parts of Crashers’ gameplay. On all versions, four-player local and online co-op are supported and with 31 different characters players will never have trouble picking favorites. Available modes include All You Can Quaff, a button-mashing minigame about eating ALL the food, a PvP arena, and the game’s 36-level campaign. It’s really stable, although matchmaking’s a bit rough and you’re not able to join games in progress. These aren’t huge gripes, but they do hold it back a smidge if someone’s dropping in and out during extended playthroughs. Crashers’ multiplayer component also has a lot to do with the game’s continued relevance. It’s not really a story-driven game – like Doom before it, it relies on simple mechanics pushed to their logical conclusion. In the same vein, Crashers’ gameplay is made even more entertaining with friends, whether they’re on your side or not. “Crashers’ multiplayer component also has a lot to do with the game’s continued relevance . . . “ As length goes, the game is pretty average but its frenetic combat is hellaciously entertaining and players with the time might be able to gobble it up in two or three sittings. However, there’s tons of replay value to be found here with a plethora of unlockable characters, game-changing companion animals, and weapons. Crashers’ real replay value is found in insane mode – an unlockable difficulty setting only available to individual characters who have beaten the game and, glaringly, omitted from the XBLA version. Hello! I’m probably the reason why insane mode destroyed your controller. After finishing Crashers with a single character, that unlocks an insane mode that is crazy difficult and frustrating in all the right ways. Once players reach insane mode it’s easy switch between normal and insane mode which might be a good idea considering that all enemies’ stats are multiplied ten-fold. It’s here that weaker builds get weeded out, and even some high-level characters just can’t cut it due to built-in weaknesses (usually terrible magic.) Fans will find themselves spending hours upon hours here, sometimes in a single area, as they re-learn the game to cope with massively increased difficulty. It’s not for everyone to be sure, but it’s here that the game is most satisfying because of its reliance on player skill and understanding of the game. All in all, Castle Crashers is a pretty entertaining game with heaping amounts of replay value. It’s also a love letter to simplicity in game design, which is why it’s so strong and demands to be learned from in the first place. With that in mind, the release of Remastered is looking to be a much-needed breath of fresh air on this indie classic that’s starting to feel a bit dated. If you’ve never played before, or just forgot about the game, you might want to pick it up and bring some friends along! It could be the start of a beautiful relationship. As a side note: If you could take any boss from Castle Crashers on a date, which would you pick and why?