Punk rock is dead.
Xbox Live Arcade's annual Summer of Arcade celebration has given gamers some of the best downloadable titles you'll ever play, but it's also played host to mediocrity. Let's not think of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, the last Xbox Summer release to cater to wearers of wallet chains. The GameRevolution offices used to be located on Gilman street in Berkeley where lots of "punks" liked to hang out. I don't know why, but the gigantic spikes always resembled the Statue of Liberty to me. Whatever. Since punks aren't into "The System," I wonder if they're into this system… this system being Xbox 360.
As an Xbox exclusive, Charlie Murder is best played cooperatively, with you and up to three friends bashing the brains of zombies, demons, and more. As a beat-'em-up, Charlie Murder gives you different moves, weapons to use, and Anarchy, which are special tattoo spells. Sound like fun? With so much energy going into beat-'em-ups these days, it's unfortunately about as middle-of-the-road as you can get.
I speak of course of contemporaries on PlayStation platforms and even on Xbox Live Arcade. In this generation, the beat-'em-up has been refined and tweaked ad nauseam so Charlie Murder's theme and premise might not appeal to you. The fantasy or comic-book aesthetic of other arcade button mashers seems more ubiquitous. and Charlie's IDGAF punk style is matched by the hand-drawn art design. If punk rock, gothic themes, and blood and gore is in your wheelhouse, then may Satan go with you.
Charlie and all of his friends, believe it or not, start the game in hell, only to return to hell on Earth, thanks to the repeated shock of an EMT's paddles. It's unnerving that a whole bunch of boss-looking characters are standing there watching your return to life. They could just end you where you lie, but then none of the game would happen. You wouldn't get to enjoy beating baddies with the severed heads of your murdered opponents, nor hear the ass kicking soundtrack.
Charlier Murder isn't completely dead inside. The action is decent and the variety of weapons and button combos will prove entertaining with a handful of friends. Lots of input signals flash as you run around the field, and some moves provide a QTE of sorts for heavy damage. I also appreciate how readily Ska Studios communicates to the player, with enemies displaying remaining health at all times and the game set at a steady pace.
Unfortunately, everything wears thin as the hours go on. You'll never come to care about Charlie and his bandmates. Gore Quaffer, the metal band collective that rival Charlie and the gang lack any serious villainy and the constant stream of enemies will inevitably feel stale. Ska tries to keep things fresh with the tattoos you earn for magical abilities, as well as lots of hidden goodies and unlockables, but the severed heads are sufficient enough. One-man bands need to stay far from Charlie Murder.
With friends, you'll get plenty of mileage, but alone you'll probably wish you spent your $10 elsewhere. If you and a band of not-so-local friends like to meet up for co-op every week, Ska Studios will more than scratch that itch. They've proven their strength in playing off a genre, like one of the thousands of punk covers out there, but I wish they did something more original with beat-'em-ups considering the competition in that space. Charlie Murder represents a studio heading in the right direction, but it still feels like painting by numbers.
Code provided by publisher. Xbox 360 exclusive.