Charlie Murder Review

Ah, the humble beat ‘em up. This simple genre has seen greats in the past such as Final Fight, River City Ransom, Double Dragon, and many others. The genre hasn’t had much luck recently, with a few sparse examples of attempts to bring it into the 3rd dimension that mostly fell flat (and some that did impress, but not as much as the classics). However, it seems to be keeping a spark alive in digital releases of 2-D side-scrollers from smaller studios and publishers such as The Behemoth and Ska Studios. This game is from the latter. Does it keep the hope of brawlers everywhere alive, or does it fall woefully short? Let’s jump into the fray and find out.

Charlie Murder is a game about a band, a band called Charlie Murder. That band gets killed by a rival band that has made a deal with the devil to become more famous and popular than Charlie Murder. The game starts you by letting you pick your member of the band and then drops you in a small sliver of hades where you are fighting for your afterlife against a small horde of minor demons until the best EMTs ever manage to revive the band and the real battle for metal supremacy begins. The game mixes flavors of River City Ransom with deeper RPG elements that include leveling up and equipment changes to alter your stats and become more powerful to take on increasingly more powerful foes and bosses. As for the enemies, they range from minor demons to shambling zombies to giant sendups of horror movie tropes that are unabashedly evil and know it. Scattered throughout the levels, you’ll find various weapons and things to smash that hide items can help your characters live longer or kill more enemies quicker. As the game progresses, it tells bits of backstory as to why the main antagonist, Paul, hates Charlie and his band so much. The levels are pretty straight forward with their design since it is a side-scroller at its heart, but it does have hidden side areas and goodies hidden throughout the background that your characters can snap pictures of to unlock power-ups, money, or extra experience in the form of followers on the game’s version of Twitter. The game’s bosses get increasingly harder and frustrating unless you can figure out their patterns and find a good strategy to take them out before they take you down.

The controls are very tight and smooth. The face buttons allow you to dictate the type of attack used and jumping. The left stick moves your character around the play area and double tapping an holding the stick in a certain direction enables running. When holding down the right trigger, the face buttons change to correspond to the various special attacks that can be unleashed that can either buff your characters or harm your enemies in various ways. Left trigger is the block button, but can be used to initiate a counterattack when the right ability is unlocked. When multiple characters have unlocked certain abilities, team-up attacks become available when the timing is right. For those that play it solo, you can use combos to do more damage than with the standard attacks alone. At certain times though, the game whips out a Guitar Hero-style minigame where the face buttons are used to do a rhythm game that is used to fill in the back story.

The graphics are done in the style that fans of Ska’s games will be very familiar with. The hand-drawn character sprites are beautiful and smoothly animated. The backgrounds, though at times a bit busy, are wonderfully detailed and are peppered with humor and neat little nods to their masters at Microsoft, from the fact that the characters all carry Windows Phones to the Flying Windows screensavers on the terminals where you can sell unneeded junk for extra money for healing items and better equipment. The game tends to turn up the gore to 11 at times, especially considering one of the abilities one can unlock is to basically curb-stomp a downed enemy. The screen can get hectic sometimes as the battles heat up but they made sure that your characters stand out enough from the crowd so you don’t get lost in the mayhem.

The music is a awesome original mashup of different styles of metal and other heavy music styles. The sounds during battle are visceral and satisfying as the gore goes flying. Every crunch, every splurt, and every smash is powerful and makes it’s impact known, whether against the enemies or your characters. The music makes every scene’s emotions flow through it as the riffs hit one after another.

Multiplayer is available in this title in the form of 4 player simultaneous co-op both on and off line. The offline multiplayer is drop-in/drop-out where your friends can pop in and out at any time. The co-op just adds to the fun by letting your friends join in with the beatings. Unfortunately, I was unable to give online multiplayer a try during the brief time I had to try the game as no games were available at the time. The multiplayer allows for new dimensions in the battles as they add to the strategy and allow for team up attacks that can make things go absolutely crazy.

With this being the second game in Microsoft’s venerable Xbox Live Arcade’s Sumer of Arcade, I feel they’ve made the right decision with this being in the lineup. The game screams “play me” and makes you want to come back for more until you beat down the final boss and then make another run through the game just because you can.


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Charlie Murder Review
Charlie Johnson

Summary: On the surface the game seems like a mindless button masher, but once one peels back the layers, you can find there is so much more staring back. With a humorous story, smooth action, and great party play, this game makes for a great deal at $10 and a great exclusive lock down for Xbox Live Arcade.


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Tags: 2013, arcade, Charlie, date, murder, of, price, release, review, score, summer, xbla

About the Author

Charlie Johnson I’ve been gaming since the NES days and have played a huge assortment of games over the years. I play all sorts of games, especially RPGs (I’ve played EVERY Final Fantasy game made, even Mystic Quest). I’ve pretty much owned everything from the NES up to the latest generation of systems. I even play PC games! It’s a wonder sometimes that things get done around here at all! Geez, I think I even LOOK like a true nerd! In all seriousness though, I’m here to have some fun doing what I love and giving you good folks the most honest reviews that I can.

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