The last game I played from Ska Studios was The Dishwater franchise and for me that’s the perfect example of what Charlie Murder is all about with the added RPG element of collecting loot and levelling up. The game remains just as gory and follows a similar art style, but there’s even more madness to be had within the world. Whatever formula Ska have hidden away, it’s working a wonder for their XBLA titles right now.
The story of Charlie Murder revolves around a growing punk rock band known as “Charlie Murder”. You play as one of the many band members and battle against rival death metalers Gore Quaffer and other evils such as witches, which in turn rewards you with more followers to the band.
This entire theme of the punk rock music scene is also conveyed through the game’s soundtrack. It’s easy to tell when you’re nearing a boss fight by the fast beat and it also helps to create this punk rock vibe. There’s even a section of the game where it turns into Rock Band and you’re asked to press buttons accordingly in order to rock out with your fellow band members.
Character selection can be a difficult choice, but they are fairly self-explanatory by their titles. We have the Bezerker, Mage, Mesmer, Shaman and the Tank. I’ve played with three of the classes and it’s clear what benefits each one has as soon as you start playing. As a mage though, you can’t just spam spells as you might expect, instead you have to wait for your spell to recharge before casting it again, and even then the damage isn’t all that impressive.
The RPG element of the game really does serve the game, as loot is constantly dropped by enemies and you’re forced to level up to wear that specific t-shirt you just picked up. Throughout each area weapons are scattered around the floor and there are plenty of shops on your journey for you to spend some of that hard earned cash. It’s also clear which weapon is more powerful without any damages shown, for example the shotgun tears death metalers’ heads off with one close range shot, while a small blade only manages to cause a cut and a small amount of health off your foe. I think the main reason for not showing damages on screen though is more to do with keeping the UI clean, especially when you consider that your health, level, special moves and money are the only things displayed in the top left hand corner.
Once you level up , you’ll be presented with a number of attributes which include: strength, speed, defense and “anar-chi”, which are your special attacks. In addition, you can get tattoos to channel your “anar-chi” to specific boosts.
Another interesting part of this game is the mobile phone, which displays your followers, mail, stats and the camera function. You can become a photographer in no time, snapping away at codes or symbols on the wall might be the best place to start though, as they unlock you free items if you manage to spot one. These collectibles certainly pose a challenge for the completionists amongst us, and you have to look quite hard for a few of them as they might be hidden behind arcade machines or you might not even spot one the symbols.
Moving onto the core gameplay mechanic - the combat is really simple and as the game progresses you’re taught new moves to use against enemies. The first one you’re taught involves picking up a blocking foe and throwing him into an electricity pylon. They become more deadly as you adventure further, but it’s always fun to watch when you manage to pull them off.
One of the features I was looking forward to was the co-op side of the game, since I saw some gameplay shown at E3 2013 of this and it looked really good and unlike a lot of these fighting games, the action was easy to follow and you could easily make out your character. Although sadly, I couldn’t find any games at the time due to the game being an early release for reviewing purposes. Where are those fellow reviewers when you need them!
My only issue with the game has to be replay value, however there are PvP arenas to battle friends and other players, then there’s the loot and secrets to find. So I guess you could say this game has just about enough to keep you and your friends playing after one playthrough.
We all remember the uniqueness shown by Castle Crashers, well this feels like that, if not better. Either way, Charlie Murder is easily the best Xbox Live Arcade titles I’ve heard about and played this year, which is quite an accolade considering the amount of titles released each week on the Marketplace.If you’re looking for a fun co-op adventure that has plenty of loot to collect and levels to gain, then this is definitely a title you don’t want to miss from the Summer of Arcade promotion.