Crashing onto the PC scene!
No the game isn't actually having crashing issues. Castle Crashers is having other issues which make it feel like one of the many lazy console ports PC gamers have to deal with. Which is unfortunate because I found this game to be quite enjoyable otherwise.
The very first thing I noticed when I jumped into Castle Crashers was the big huge screen that recommended using a controller. An Xbox 360 controller to be exact. This quickly set off warning flags in the back of my mind, but the game looked fun that I generally ignored it under the assumption that I could play it with a keyboard and mouse regardless. I was kinda right. The mouse is used for one thing and one thing only! Navigating the main menu. There is a settings window where you can rebind your keys to whatever you want but there is no real option to bind any keys to the mouse, which was alright, but I wanted to use Ventrilo instead of the built in VOIP.
The game's lack of mouse support isn't what really bothered me. Sure, the initial key bindings weren't terribly well optimized, but you could rebind the keys within the game to suit your needs much better than the stock keys do.
What really bothered me was how they didn't even bother changing any of the tutorials or prompts to fit a keyboard. Everywhere you look, even from the main menu, PC players will see Xbox 360 button prompts rather than any of the many PC keys they could use. This was made more troublesome once I actually started playing, and had to translate console buttons to keyboard keys.
After a bit of trial and error I was finally able to figure out what all the Xbox 360 controller prompts meant, and the game became considerably more enjoyable! But that's a hurdle that shouldn't have been there to begin with and makes the port feel incredibly lazy. Even plugging none Xbox 360 controllers will force players to figure out what does what, if they're not configured the exact same way.
After I got past the hurtle of learning the controls and translating console buttons to keyboard keys I actually enjoyed this game quite a bit!
Once upon a time...
Castle Crashers starts out with our band of dashing heroes rocking out to ye-olde-timey music, when some evil wizard steals a big special rock from the king's throne room. Oh and the princesses are gone too. As a brave knight, it is your duty to reclaim the princesses! And that big rune covered rock. Whatever it happened to be. Clearly it was just a classy room decoration for the king and the wizard was totally jealous of it. Right? Right?!
There may not be a lot of story to Castle Crashers but there are a lot of laughs from the silliness of the game, from the cartoony art style to the actions of NPC's in the world as players run through going about their business. At one point we were even running away from what I can only describe as a giant cat (It turned out to be some form of troll). Our method of transportation? Why our trusty deer, of course! One of which had a rather unique method of propulsion. What? Don't all knights ride deer into battle?
Castle Crashing Away!
In Castle Crashers, players run around hacking and slashing their way through enemies with a variety of melee weapons and items they pick up on their travels. The knights also have access to magic, which is unique to each character. Did I mention melee weapons? Sure, they don't actually give you access to different move sets or anything like that, but they do affect the players stats, along with providing a wide variety of really cool looking things to beat on enemies heads with. These can be found anywhere from random enemies, boxes and sometimes from boss fights. Don't like your newest weapon? No problem, you can always go back to the world map and and visit the local blacksmith, where all of your weapons are stored. In some sort of strange deer frog thing.
As players progress through the game they level up and gain skill points to spend on one of four fields; Strength, Magic, Defense, and Agility. All affect different attributes of your knight and, short of agility (unless you really like your bow), all feel rather important. This is good, because there's no real bad way to build your knight. There is only what works for you. That being said, you don't need to actually progress in the game to level up. It helps, but if you're stuck somewhere you can just go back and beat up on easier baddies in order to stand a better chance against the harder ones, or go back to buy supplies. Health potions are rather important after all!
Castle Crashers supports up to four players playing together at the same time which certainly makes life easier when it comes to progressing. Sometimes it felt like I needed more than just fellow End Gamers writer Kitsunami along for the ride to push on through. Then again we were still learning the controls at the time.
There are really only two downsides to playing with friends. Firstly, gold isn't split between the four players, so one greedy team mate can hog all of the cash and the rest of the group wont have money to buy the weapons or supplies they may need. Secondly, if your friends or random players you are playing with, decide they want to take their sweet time at the level up screen, you're going to be stuck watching them fiddle about with their stats until they finish.
Good old fashioned boss fights and then some.
Castle Crashers also features a variety of bosses with their own tricks and shenanigans about them. The very first bosses entrance was especially amusing to me. He really made it known that he was the big bad guy of the area, easily knocking us around and even burying us in the dirt after smashing his shield down over our bucket covered skulls. Meanwhile, the crowd of barbarians in the background cheer at every big hit and drop down from the crowd to join their chieftain in trying to stop our rescue of the princesses.
Well I guess it's only one princess now. Did I mention that the princesses were kind of important? After the dust settled from our most epic fight with the barbarian chief, Kitsunami and I found ourselves in a bit of an awkward position. We freed the princess and then proceeded to take a fighting stance against each other! Kitsunami was terribly confused by this, I on the other hand found out we had control over our characters and proceeded to throw lightning at her in her confusion! I kinda figured she knew what was going on, oh well.
It turns out that after every big boss fight the band of knights will have to fight over the princess. Last man standing gets a kiss from the lovely damsel!
That reminds me!
Castle Crashers also features an Arena mode, where you can duel your friends or any other random players online to prove who truly is the best! Just in case your last duel over a princess wasn't quite fair. But you're not just dueling each other! The Arena also pours in increasingly tougher waves of enemies until all of the players inside have fallen. There might be an end to this but I haven't made it there yet!
There is also All you can Quaff, another competitive mode that really boils down to who can button mash faster than everyone else. Knights sit at a table, scarfing down every bit of food they can possibly shove down their throats before the other three knights. It's a rather silly game mode but other than a couple of laughs I don't see much of a point to it.
Its a fun journey. Mostly.
So Castle Crashers is a fun little game. Sure, you're going to have to deal with translating console buttons to to keyboard keys if you don't have an Xbox 360 controller, but over all I found this game to be fun, especially with friends.
Unfortunately if you don't have friends to play this game with, it can be a little frustrating since it's built for four players. Be prepared to get knocked around a lot by the enemies seeking to stop you from getting the princesses back and the king's spiffy rune covered rock. "But I can just join a game with other random players!" Yeah I thought about doing the same. Unfortunately there aren't a lot of people hosting public games to join and when I was playing on my own in an open game I played for about an hour before someone actually showed up for a few minutes.
If I had to hazard a guess, it's probably the fact that the game is 15 USD on Steam at the moment, which is a lot for a game that was out years ago, and it doesn't even come with the two extra DLC packs that are out for it now. Regardless of whether or not PC gamers find Castle Crashers to be a good game, I can understand if they feel cheated for having to pay full price on a two year old game that got a pretty lazy port over to the PC.
At the very least Steam does offer a demo to try it before you buy it, which is good because I miss having demos to try out a game rather than buying it and having buyer's remorse within the first half hour or so of play. So Castle Crashers might see a sudden population spike during a Steam sale.