Beat Downs Have Never Looked More Colorful
Old-school action gets a colorful update (in more ways than one) as The Behemoth delivers unto the PSN Network Castle Crashers. As knights of the realm, you are tasked with saving the day, one beat-down at a time. It sounds straight-forward enough, but a deft mix of bizarre humor, pop-culture references and sharp design make this a rather fun, is somewhat short, adventure.
A simple 2D presentation really pops with a bold colors and cartoonish character design that, on one than more occasion, reminded me of the old Ren and Stimpy cartoon. Despite the rather simplistic approach, there are also scenes of great violence - arms and legs and heads often roll as your knights cut a bloody swatch through a variety of enemies. It's just one of those interesting juxtapositions, along with the completely bizarre enemy designs, that make this game so much fun.
There's not a lot of depth here - you and your knight buddies are having a rocking good time at the palace when a dastardly wizard and his barbarian underlings crash the party by stealing a crystal - along with the four princesses. You, of course, follow them - and even though your fellow generic knights look to be dying in huge numbers, you continue on, cutting down everything in your path.
Of course, beating the barbarians is only the first step in your journey that takes you through some interesting levels: a forest filled with animals who literally crap themselves to death, a alien spaceship filled with a seemingly never-ending supply of little green men, a desert where camel-riding Arabs (or their castle-crashing equivalents) and an endless parade of scorpions ruin your day and a frozen wasteland filled with deadly Eskimos are just a few of the many diverse places you will visit.
As soon as you beat the biggest bad of each section, it results in the rescue of one of the four princesses. The game then turns to a free-for-all as the knights fight each other to see who "wins" the princess, who promptly makes out with the winner.
The story isn't exactly revelatory, but the mix of game design and sly references (T2, ceiling cat, Zelda - about every other beat 'em up game to come before it) more than makes up for a somewhat generic "go save the day" story line.
Also pretty straight-forward - you walk in one direction and kill anything that gets in your way. This game design goes back to Double Dragon, Battletoads, Golden Axe and River City Ransom - beat 'em up at its best. They manage to make things interesting by giving you a few things to upgrade - one, your character levels up as you beat on the various enemies. As you do, you can increase one of four stats: strength, magic, defense or speed. Increasing magic gives you access to various spells you can use on enemies, strength lets you lay even more smack down, defense means you will survive a little longs and speed, well, makes you faster (seemingly, it was never upgraded enough to fully test if it makes that big of difference).
Aside from your character, there are also a variety of weapons and animal orbs you can collect in your travels. Weapons either increase or decrease your four stats with some also providing critical chances and elemental effects. These range from hunks of meat to wicked-looking blades. The animals likewise provide various effects - some boost stats, others attack enemies and can even find treasure.
As you level up you also gain some combo attacks, although most of the time I'm sure you will be mashing buttons like mad rather than trying to come up with the perfect attack. It doesn't help that hit detection is a bit of a mess - if you don't happen to be lined up pretty much exactly with your enemy, you'll be fighting air. It's not a huge deal, but does get annoying.
You start the game with four knights with four elements - fire, electricity, ice and poison. As you go through the game you unlock other playable characters such as a skeleton or alien hominid, but only the character you are using ever levels up, so to make anyone else useful would require multiple playthroughs.
The game is also relatively short - able to be passed in one night easily. Of course, that is just the main story line, for completionists there are plenty of weapons, pets and, of course, Insane Mode to tackle. There are plenty of things for sale, but considering on how stingy the game is with dropping gold, that would require a lot of grinding to accomplish.
The game is, of course, a lot more fun with multiple people. For one, you can revive your fellow players without having to start over each time and it makes it much easier to take down bosses. It can get a bit hectic on the screen at times, but I would much rather have things look crazy rather than get frustrated by having to play levels over and over again in order to gain levels to proceed.
If you're craving some classic beat 'em up action with a wicked sense of humor, you won't find much better. While the game is a bit on the short side and isn't without its issues, it provides a solid night of entertainment that, at $15, might be a bit pricey for the return, but is fun none-the-less.
Overall (not an average): 3.5/5