With the onset of modern graphics, high processing graphics cards capable of loading thousands of frames per second, and next generation game development systems, one would naturally assume two dimensional, ‘simple’ games would have fallen out of favor, right?
Wrong! 2D games are still just as popular as they were upon their release, arguably even more so! The rapid advancement of gaming technologies have only pushed two dimensional games to be better than ever before. It allows for smoother feeling gameplay, more advanced textures within the scopes of 2D graphics, and an abundance of visual animations to heighten the aesthetic appeal of the game without compromising performance.
Castle Crashers Remastered has taken all of these concepts and combined them into a brilliant 2D brawler that can give hours, even days, of fun. Just to note, the remastered version of the game only introduced updated textures, performance increases, and a few other quality of life changes. Considering that, this review will also apply to the original version of Castle Crashers as there is little difference in terms of gameplay and overall quality of the game. Without further ado, here is a complete Castle Crashers Remastered review segmented as follows (Oh, and SPOILER ALERT):
Hack and slash games typically consist of some sort of melee based combat, usually with swords or blades. They can also sometimes include ranged weapons as a secondary but that should not be the primary attack. This is exactly how Castle Crashers mechanics are, except for the addition of a character’s element.
Depending on which character you decide to play at the start, you may have any number of various elements including fire, ice, electricity, or poison. Fittingly, they are also color coordinated to the various knights (the green knight is poison, blue is ice, etc.). There are also a large number of unlockable characters with various elements and starting weapons available.
Clearly, the character you pick can have a large impact on how the game is played. You may run a tankier character that enjoys getting up in the enemy’s face, or a more ranged character that can deal tons of damage from afar. The roles tend to get more and more specialized the further in the game you go as you will find more powerful weapons and be able to spend even more skill points (more on that later).
In terms of melee style, the game feels much like any other 2D slasher. You have a light attack, heavy attack, jumping attack, etc. You can also equip a wide variety of items that can either help you in combat or help you to progress within the story and/or find hidden items. For your magic/element, every character has a mana bar that slowly depletes as you use your special element. After it has ran out, it will take a few moments for it to recharge before you can use it again.
You can also perform combo attacks within Castle Crashers. They are implemented just like many other games featuring a combo system, by mashing a series of buttons in a particular order to create an attack that is even more devastating. If you are interested in the full list of combos, the Castle Crashers Remastered Wiki would be a great place to start!
A final quirk to Castle Crashers would have to be the attribute system. As you progress through the levels, you will be able to spend your skill points on different attributes to your character. These attributes include strength, magic, defense, and agility, all of which seem pretty self-explanatory. Many players will opt for a more defensive layout, as the game's experience system (which levels you up and gives you more skill points) is based on number of hits against enemies, not damage done. This means that upgrading your damage will only hinder your ability to level up and consequently make you a squishier target.
The visual category is the only one in which the remastered version of the game will come into play (and possibly ‘feel’ for the FPS improvements, but I am going to lump that in here). The remastered version includes the following changes:
The most impactful of these changes, in my opinion, would have to be the dual improvement of FPS and resolution. As someone who plays many of the newest games that come out, it has become very easy to get used to 60, 144, or even 244 FPS with a matching monitor refresh rate to boot. With the increasing trend of 4K resolution gaming, it is getting even more life-like for the average game. Taking the original version to 60 FPS and 1080p puts the game, at the very least, to a modern game’s industry standard. Anything less and it becomes increasingly noticeable.
In terms of visual style, Castle Crashers Remastered has a fun, almost kid-like drawing style similar to that of Adventure Time or many modern mobile games. The style the animators chose to go with provides a unique visual template and clean animations to make hours of playing go by like a breeze. The cutesy art style also allows for them to go in whatever direction they would like with the bosses (as pictured below) guaranteeing an interesting encounter with every new boss.
A final visual flare the game decided to add was the bonus chest after defeating a boss. Along with some epic music, a massive golden chest appears on screen and erupts golden coins, weapons, and bonuses into the sky for the players to collect. This gives a satisfying reward to defeating the boss and, as a bonus, looks pretty sweet too. Satisfaction for doing something positive in a game is an extremely important part of game design (think of CS:GO’s headshot sound) that goes overlooked. Thankfully, Castle Crashers managed to save the satisfaction aspect of the game with the golden chest, as a regular enemy dying is unfortunately just a boring fade to nothingness.
As mentioned earlier in this review, Castle Crashers’ level layout consists of fighting through various stages and hordes of themed enemies, only to be met by a difficult boss at the end as a final challenge. The various bosses have a whole bunch of unique quirks that make fighting them a blast. On top of that, their unique abilities may sometimes counter your dedicated attribute levels (an in your face, tanky, melee boss will not be a good time for a dedicated ranged knight). This is also where the inclusion of multiplayer comes into play.
The fact that this game is multiplayer (both local and randomly online) adds so much to the game. So much so, I may not even like the game if it were only single player, that is how much of a difference it makes. Being able to combine various fighting styles to defeat bosses gives it a RPG vibe of having dedicated tanks, DPS, and healers. With teamwork being so important, it adds a sense of comradery with your friends to come together and work towards a common goal. That being said, the loot you receive and enemies you face scales with how many players you have. This means it will be equally difficult/rewarding for a single player vs a full team. So even if you can not find anyone to play the game with, you can still have some fun with it!
In terms of story, Castle Crashers pay an homage to Mario with, you guessed it, princesses being stolen yet again. This time, however, it was by an evil wizard and his minions. As I do not want to give too much away to the story, I will only say this. The story is good enough to keep you interested throughout and allow the superior mechanics/feel/visuals to carry the game. If you are looking for a story-based game, this may not be the game for you.
Castle Crasher may just be the king (pun intended once you play the game) of replayability. The game features a completely separate mode called insane mode. This mode only unlocks after the player completely beats the game, including the final boss, with a certain character. At that point, the player can then completely restart in insane mode with that character. In this mode, enemies adhere to the ‘10x rule’ in which basically all of their stats are multiplied by ten including health and damage. This proves to be an even bigger challenge once you get to the bosses.
You may be wondering, “what is the point of playing insane mode if I have already beat the game?” To this, there is only one answer: more loot! Well, I suppose not only one answer. You can also unlock other characters with unique abilities, get unique weapons only found in this mode, and ultimately have a greater challenge than just the normal game. You may also be worried about just how hard insane mode is as ten times stats seems like a lot and it is! However, as mentioned earlier, the game's experience system is based on how many hits you do to an enemy. Tankier enemies equate to more experience and thus more skill points. This allows you to be even stronger than you would be if you were in normal mode, but so are the enemies. These factors balance out to create an overall harder playthrough, but not so much so that it is impossible. Just almost impossible.
Overall, Castle Crashers Remastered has a lot of great quirks and features that make the game what it is. The game’s interesting visual style adds a great aesthetic that can keep the player visually entertained for entire playthroughs. The mechanics of the game feel smooth just as the combat with enemies does. The story may be a bit lacking, but the gameplay and visuals help to make up for it. Most importantly, the game's replayability is through the roof. In fact, I would go as far to say that you have not experienced the game fully until you have beaten it in both normal and insane mode. All of these factors work together to create a fun 2D narrative to escape to and get lost in for hours on end!
So, is Castle Crashers Remastered worth the fifteen dollar price tag?
In our opinion, yes!
Image courtesy of nintendo.co.uk