Storming the Castle Since 2008.
This year, Super Mario Bros. celebrates 30 years of turtle shells, green pipes, and all those princesses who are inevitably in another castle. It’s important to remember, however, that there has been plenty of other terrific side-scrollers that weren’t just knock-offs of the famous Italian plumbers’ adventures. One was Mega Man, who just had an awesome Legacy Collection release. Castle Crashers, while comparatively new, is another.
Of course, Castle Crashers Remastered is more in the spirit of Streets of Rage or Golden Axe. This isn’t a platformer, after all. You’re out to kill pretty much everything as opposed to jumping everywhere. It's a beat-‘em-up through and through.
You start with your choice of four characters (which goes up to six), and you can even have three buddies join in the mayhem online. A bevy of abilities adds up to a surprising amount of creative possibilities. Not everything is unique, though: The main plot is to once again rescue a princess. I guess, if it ain’t broke, right?
Developer The Behemoth packs plenty of humor and wit throughout the game’s more than twenty levels. The opening scene, which is accompanied by a great medieval-themed score, is perfect at capturing the crazy havoc of a bunch of partying knights. Everyone sobers up quick (or else expires) once that princess is taken. In the tradition of old-school storytelling, there are plenty of funny text balloons and visual gags. The boss stages are highly imaginative as well. Can you picture a dragon with a sock puppet? Yep, it’s that silly. And the end is a delirious doozy.
You might need some time to get a feel for the controls. In terms of frustration, it’s on the level of Guacamelee, which just means you gotta be a little patient while you learn to grab baddies and decapitate them. Is there anything new? Why yes, "Back Off Barbarian" mode. In it, your character moves around a grid trying to avoid getting smashed by others. It took some getting used to, as the movement didn’t quite make sense to me at first: Essentially, you use the colors of the buttons on your controller to match the movement. (Just typing that sounds weird.) Still, this is a fun little bonus that doesn’t affect the main game.
Although I heard the online support back in the 2008 was not very stable, I had no complaints with the few rounds I tested. All told, the game looks great on the Xbox One with the game's newly-minted HD visuals. Colors pop, and the frame-rate rarely drops. The range of color, however, is not quite on the level of the similar Guacamelee, but that’s probably more the intention of the artists than a fault of the programming. Visually, it’s rock-solid at 60fps and 1080p.
Castle Crashers Remastered is a real hoot speaking as someone who missed out seven years ago. It's bright, funny button-masher that’s deep enough if you want more, and it has an Arena Mode, the Back Off Barbarian minigame, and an "Insane Mode" for good measure. The $14.99 price might seem a tad high ($10 would have been better), but no matter—this is a must for anyone jonesing for an old school beat 'em up. And good news alert: If you did happen to purchase Castle Crashers previously on the 360, you have until September 20th to redeem it on your Xbox One for free! Huzzah!