More than a decade ago, I was heavily into Newgrounds.com.
For those who don’t fondly remember the site, it was a place where artists, musicians, game developers and other creative people regularly shared their labors of love. I spent hours playing free Flash games, admiring digital drawings and listening to cheesy techno tunes. I even tried my hand at making my own music and art.
In August 2008, site owner Tom Fulp, site artist Dan Paladin and other notable Newgrounds names released “Castle Crashers,” a full game that actually cost money to play. The group, known as The Behemoth, had released “Alien Hominid” years before and would create “Battleblock Theater” years later, but “Castle Crashers” is the one Behemoth game I’ve come back to time and time again.
That’s because, even 10 years later, this indie darling still holds up—especially with friends. And that’s saying something considering what a simple, bare-bones experience “Castle Crashers” is.
The game is a side-scroller in which you play as a knight trying to save princesses, recover a priceless artifact and stop an evil wizard. It’s about as stereotypical as it gets. As you play, you level up, gaining access to new magical abilities and dozens of weapons.
The game has combos, and certain enemies are weak to different magical attacks. But in the end, you basically just button mash your way to victory. There are no convoluted strategies, and no grinding is necessary. It’s a simple game to pick up and play, which contributes to its allure.
Just ask my girlfriend. She isn’t a gamer, but we decided to give “Castle Crashers” a shot last week, and we had a blast. It must have been the 12th time I’ve gone through the game, but it was still fun to introduce someone new to “Castle Crashers” and play alongside her.
Another thing that draws me back is the game’s sense of humor and art style. There are your typical poop jokes and funny bosses, including a catfish that’s more cat than fish. The characters and environments are bright, colorful and almost doodle-like, making the game a pleasure to play every time.
“Castle Crashers” is short—short enough to easily finish in a single sitting. That may sound like a bad thing, but it’s not. The game features about two dozen characters, many of whom are unlocked by beating the game with other characters. Half the fun is trying to unlock and play as each of them.
After playing with my girlfriend, I persuaded a friend to play through the game once with me. He, too, beat the game years ago before we even really knew each other, but we both found ourselves laughing as we reminisced through the game and repeatedly threw and stomped enemies to death.
The three of us have made plans to play the game together. I’ve never played “Castle Crashers” with two other players before (the game supports up to four-player co-op), so I’m looking forward to it. Playing games with my friends, especially when they’re in the same room, is always a treat.
Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, leaving a comment below, or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.