Castle Crashers is one of those games that is so fun you feel like your review has to be extra insightful and entertaining because otherwise people will quit reading and just go play. So you get all intimidated about what to write because it has to be so witty and so smart that in the end you're reduced to opening like this just to cover a base or two. Yeah, maybe you should go start downloading it from Xbox Live Arcade and I'll be carrying on in a more useful fashion when you get back.
At $15, Castle Crashers is worth every penny, and it'll be worth it for all your friends, too, when they come over to crash castles with you. Co-op (with up to four players online or off) as accessible and compelling as this is like an infinite happy tree; I've played the first several levels over ten times and am still playing. The beat'em up genre is generally hardcore in that vanishing-quarters-act sort of way, but here, RPG elements give lots of incentive to keep trying - as if a duel to the death with your comrades over who gets to make out with the princesses isn't enough!
Oh yeah, there's a story with a magical crystal and some princesses. If only there were a way to skip the cut-scenes. Short as they are, you really don't need to see them every time.
Starting out, you'll get the choice between four level-one knights: poison, fire, ice, and lightning. Soon after, you'll unlock a grey knight whose magic attack is simply a shower of arrows, and there are additional exciting and worthwhile characters to unlock after you beat the game.
Being a beat'em up, Castle Crashers is the definition of button-mashy; however, since you have light and heavy melee attacks with unlocking combos, archery, and magic to use, there can be a fair amount of depth to your fighting style depending how you allocate your stat points. How I wish there were some area of effect attacks to mitigate the longitudinal razor edge of beat'em up hit boxes, but for all the times you whiff, there will soon follow a combo that sees you smacking your enemy all the way across the screen.
The stages are each a node on a path throughout a kingdom that includes a surprising range of environmental features. Yes, there's a lava world. Yes, there's an ice world. The water level (where to fight effectively you need to be standing on a bit of floating debris or a swimming animal, and every enemy's intention is to knock you down) will make you cry, as water levels seem to have a reputation for doing (maybe they designed it that way on purpose), but it's still fun. You'll meet a variety of startlingly (and quite frankly, unnecessarily) incontinent forest animals, an army of Alien Hominid clones (The Behemoth takes every opportunity to remind you it did the masochistically hardcore side-scrolling shooter, Alien Hominid), and - ok I won't spoil that one; it's too lol-able, if a bit predictable.