Developer: Ska Studios
Release Date: Out Now
Price: 800 MSP
Insane, explosive, bizarre, outrageous and hilarious; words that can be used to describe Charlie Murder, yet not even cover half of what this game can throw at you. If you were someone who grew up in the days where side-scrolling brawlers such as Streets of Rage and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were all the rage, you’ll certainly have been overjoyed with the abundance of exceptionally good modern entries that have exploded onto the scene.
Charlie Murder, however, is something else entirely. At first glance, it looks like your typical side-scrolling beat-em-up, but Charlie Murder takes on a personality of its very own by adding a smattering of crazy RPG elements into the mix and churning out what can only be described as an acid trip.
Only a few months ago, a friend of mine and I were complaining that there were very few games that featured local co-operative play which offers something different from the norm. Charlie Murder blows that theory straight out of the water with its absurd action-packed brawler action that takes lunacy to a whole new level. Charlie Murder is a 4-player side-scrolling brawler with the added option of drop-in, drop out co-op along with the ability to play multiplayer online across Xbox Live.
A strong quality that the game manages to excel in is the huge amount of customisation options, which will delight fans of RPGs, and suggests that there is the possibility of expansive opportunities in the near future. Players can equip Charlie and his entire band with a large variety of hats, shirts, gloves and other accessories, and each of them add to your stats and upgrade your character (which is where our RPG elements come into play). What I found throughout the game, as you enter secondary locations and discover new levels, the clothing stores, pet stores, tattoo parlours, and bars that you can stop by remind me a little of The World Ends With You. I believe that is just a small part of what intrigued me and sucked me in just a little more than I would have thought.
Upgrading your character is done via pressing left on the d-pad, which, in turn, brings up a Windows Phone, from which you can then scroll through the many options with the right or left button of the Xbox 360 controller. From the menu you can choose which special abilities, counters and overdrive abilities you wish to use, from dual-wielding to team-attacks. There is also an option to increase the damage of weapons, such as guns, and also increase the amount of items you can hold at one time. After upgrading your special ability, the four categories you can then focus on upgrading are strength, speed, defense and “an-archi”.
This Windows Phone isn’t just a nifty looking menu for your inventory though. Pressing up on the d-pad will allow you to see how many followers your band has managed to accrue over time; right on the d-pad will allow you to check inbox messages that give you hints and tips throughout the game, as well as amusing text messages that will give you a small insight into Lord Mortimer’s disgruntlement. Finally, pressing down on the d-pad will open up your phone’s camera, and with this you can take photos of suggested QR codes in order to gain “special items” throughout the game.
One thing that really drew me to the game in the first place was the zany, whacky and wonderfully drawn character models, and this is definitely somewhere that the game excels. The background art is beautiful and each of the locations have a personality of their very own. The animation is smooth and the art vibrant and eye-catching, right down to the kick-ass punk rock character style.
Charlie Murder shines so much more in co-operative play. Bosses are easier to take down and cause less damage, and there’s the added bonus of being able to grab whatever you find in-game to level up your character in co-op mode. Alongside this, multiplayer play opens up the ability to do team-attacks, which definitely adds to the excitement and enjoyment of the game. Playing solo works fine, but the game is definitely at its best when playing with two or more players.
Unfortunately it’s not without its drawbacks. Though it’s not of everybody’s opinion, the menu was slightly fiddly in the first instance and took some getting used to, and I also found the check-point save points a tad frustrating. Dying means having to start over from the beginning of the current level (and you will die). It’s a game to play in short bursts because too much of something good can become excessive. Though it seemed to get overly repetitious for me to play for long periods of time, there’s nothing here that I can really point out fans of this genre won’t fall in love with.
Download this game if you are a fan of side-scrolling brawlers or games about punk-rock. If you like RPGs, looting, upgrading and levelling up, this will also likely be your cup of tea. Likened to Castle Crashers on acid, with a much more impressive soundtrack, the game is without a doubt the most ultra-violent, fast-paced assortment of crazy you will get to experience in a while.
Charlie Murder, developed by Ska Studios, is available to download on Xbox Live Arcade for around £9.99 or 800 MS Points.