Castle Crashers: A Classic Gem
by Logan Volkert
In an ever-changing world with constantly evolving technology, video games have come a long way since their two-dimensional origins. Today, we have rich narratives backed by high definition graphics, complex button maps, and detailed game design. While the growth of video games over the years is nothing short of awe-inspiring, some of us simply lack the time needed to get into and finish some of these more extravagant, Triple-A titles. Some may look down on their favorite games’ 2D siblings, but the truth is that smaller budget indie games can be just as thrilling—and more practical—than larger entries.
Castle Crashers is a prime example. Developed and released by The Behemoth in 2008, Castle Crashers is a 2D co-op hack-and-slash that has made its mark as a cult classic with millions of devout followers across all platforms. The premise of the game is simple and cliché. Players assume the role of either the red, blue, green, or orange knight, and their goal is to rescue four princesses who are stolen from the King’s castle by the Evil Wizard and his army. One thing that is not cliché, however, is how the game handles itself.
While it is two-dimensional, it has three-dimensional characters and environment backdrops that make for perception-bending experiences when in a room with three friends and ten, arrow spamming, sword swinging enemies. The hectic joy this game delivers pairs with a comedic tone to deliver a lighthearted, amusing journey through the cliché realm of princess thieving and rescuing. Castle Crashers may be simple in its heart, but it can also be a friend-gathering challenge.
For those who do not have countless hours to sink into a deep diving game, this game is short, simple, and sweet. When just starting out, gameplay will seem sluggish as you are not a high enough level to dish out maximum damage. You will probably die if playing co-op, as the enemies are tougher and more numerous, but it will be a fun, straightforward ride. As you progress, you will get stronger, and after completing the game for the first time, your next run shouldn’t take more than thirty-minutes to an hour to complete.
If you are a player who has a bit more time, or you are just looking for a game that has replay value and a challenge, then you are in luck. Castle Crashers has thirty-one playable characters, seventy-six—often well-hidden—weapons, twenty-nine (also usually hidden) animal companions, and various game modes, like volleyball. Each character, weapon, and animal orb have their own unique benefits and downsides, and there is something for every type of character build available in a simple hack-and-slasher. The game modes are also fun when playing online, but they are especially wholesome if you’re with friends.
Speaking of friends… you might want some. After players complete their first run of the game, they unlock a new challenge called Insane Mode. While Behemoth calls it Insane, I, and many others, call it a nightmare. On insane mode, enemies have around 10x the health they do on normal difficulty, and they hit many times harder. The insane—heh—increases in health and damage output makes for a long, tedious, but rewarding experience. While more players will make more, stronger enemies, the challenge is far more enjoyable with a group, and there is strength in numbers—and arrow spamming.
Overall, I would recommend this game, as it is simple in premise and design, yet it is fun, rewarding, and relaxing when playing online or by yourself. There is a lot to do and unlock, and whether you’re looking for a straightforward game to spend some downtime with or are wanting a game that has an abundance of side content, this joyous little 2D hack-and-slash is a good fit for you.
On a final note, the game is also addicting. When I was in sixth grade, I played Castle Crashers religiously, and my friends have just recently opened a portal of nostalgia—an obsession—by downloading it and inviting me into their ranks. They want me to help them beat Insane Mode and reach level ninety-nine with some characters, but I don’t think they’re ready for the heat I’m about to bring. Heat, as in, constant nagging and a controlling, way-too-competitive spirit.