he Behemoth (and founding artist Dan Paladin) have come a long way since porting a fan favorite Flash game back in 2003 — Alien Hominid's charm was hard to overlook despite the original incarnation's rough edges, and the developer soon found itself refining the property on a number of consoles. Although last year's release of Alien Hominid HD was hailed as a high point for both fans of side-scrollers and the Xbox Live Arcade, it's last week's debut of Castle Crashers on the service which perhaps marks Behemoth's coming of age.
Castle Crashers is a party game in the tradition of the old school arcade...Castle Crashers is a party game in the tradition of the old school arcade — a brawler with support for up to four players, it takes one back to a simpler time when afternoons were spent in darkened halls jamming quarters into stand-ups like X-Men and Golden Axe. While fun enough on one's own, Castle Crashers truly shines when played with a friend (or three). The controls are basic enough that anyone will quickly be hacking and slashing with the best of them and a simple leveling mechanic rewards players regardless of their skill level. Behemoth clearly struck the balance between challenge and enjoyment with this one — while hardcore gamers will love tracking down all of Castle Crasher's hidden surprises, just about anyone should be able to make their way through the campaign.
Old friends return. Carnage ensues.Three year's may seem like a rather lengthy development cycle for a simplistic 2D side-scroller, but one need only look at the game's visuals to understand what took so long. Dan Paladin's painstakingly rendered backdrops and characters are both beautifully drawn and smoothly animated, eclipsing some of the best looking 2D games of the nineties. Bosses loom large and onscreen enemies are plentiful, but despite all this action, slowdown is never a problem. Although the artist's sense of humor may not be for everyone, Castle Crashers features some of the most good-natured gore and violence to be found in a modern hack and slash experience.
Despite all that there is to love about Castle Crashers, early adopters are bound to be let down by the title's poor online performance. Many players will find it nearly impossible to join a cooperative match over Xbox Live, and while Behemoth has promised a patch, a date for its release has not yet been announced. Still, these early hiccups temper my love for Castle Crashers only slightly. Cooperative experiences like these have always been best when shared face-to-face anyway. $15 is a small price to pay for one of the best cooperative side-scrollers ever made — invite some friends over, order a pizza and make yourself some gaming memories to last a lifetime.