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GDC 07: Castle Crashers hands on

We heard the rumblings. We smelled the awesome. We knew that Castle Crashers was somewhere at GDC. It was just a matter of finding it. After what seemed like days of searching, we found the title in the Independent Games Festival pit, loaded up on an HD screen with some pumping speakers, Castle Crashers was ready and raring to go.

Before the play session began I had a chance to sit back and watch a level being played (I also got a chance to shoot the breeze with Dan Paladin). The level was highly reminiscent of Golden Axe with plenty of enemies and destruction to go around. With so many enemies and spell effects happening at once, the action can be hard to follow if you're not playing. The level ended with an enormous boss. Clad in armor and carrying a huge board with protruding spikes, it took quite a bit of effort to take him out. In an interesting twist, once the boss is destroyed, all four players fight to the death. The winner gets to untie a maiden in distress and claim the, ahem, spoils of victory.

Now it was our turn to play. Our game session was shared with The Behemoth's own Tom Fulp and Emil Ayoubkhan. Those guys, to put it simply, were much better than me. But it's a co-op game, so who cares, right? The demo level was set in a forest. The characters look great, the backgrounds are detailed (complete with a few critters), and the music is bumping. Hacking and slashing is easy enough, with the X and Y buttons doing the duty of light and heavy attacks respectively. The magic system is easy to use. Simply hold the right trigger and the normal actions will be boosted. For instance, hold the trigger and press Y to unleash a magical strong attack (as opposed to a normal strong attack).

The action is fast and fluid. Of course, this is The Behemoth, so old school difficulty definitely creeps into the game. After finishing off the forest level, we entered a wooden building. It isn't long before a massive black beast appears on the left side of the screen. Our four knights mounted 4 deer (of all things) and began to ride as fast as possible. Once you begin riding, you must alternately jump over logs in your path and squeeze through doorways. Failing in either case results in the beast catching you and putting you in a world of hurt. Tom Fulp fell victim to the beast (as did I) and noted that it's really hard not to die after making one mistake. Did you hear that? Even the developers acknowledge the difficulty!

I said during the last Fancast that Castle Crashers may be destined to become the signature experience of Xbox Live Arcade. Having finally played the game for myself, I stand by that statement. The game is great. It's original, it's pretty, and it's fun to play. What more could you ask for? Oh, that's right: a release date. Sorry, fanboys, no release date yet. In fact, Tom Fulp said it has a ways to go. We can't wait.

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