Ska Studio’s latest offering on the Xbox LIVE Arcade is the insanely frustrating Charlie Murder and forms part of the Summer of Arcade line-up for 2013 as the second title in the promotion which is available now on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace. Featuring the unique art style from the developers’ of other hit titles such as The Dishwasher and the unforgettable indie hit I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1NIT!!!1, Charlie Murder has a comic-book style visual quality where you take on the role of fallen punk rock idols who must face off against a rival death metal band.
As it goes for action and brawling, Charlie Murder is quite heavy on the enemy front with a horde of 2D zombie creatures and odd looking beings coming towards you from all directions of the screen. There are plenty of on-screen what-the-fuck-moments to keep you button mashing to the max and a rather hefty selection of Boss Battles to keep you occupied until your eyes pop out on stalks! Although it is very arty in its styling, it is also quite brutal with bloodied scenes of hand-drawn violence featuring decapitations, arms and legs in a mess everywhere – cannibalism too! Beating the undead folk with their own arms, using knives, picking up guns, swords, Ninja’s kicking in from here there ‘n’ everywhere; so as you can likely tell from my description it fast soon becomes a battle of survival with an insane mix of mini-games thrown in for good measures to break up the horde. It doubles up as a test of patience and perseverance, but whilst I played the game mostly in solo you are free to bring in your friends and go for an all-out four player murder spree as each player can take on the role of a different band member.
One of the most noticeable game styles of Charlie Murder is that it plays very Old-Skool, in the way that my first impression would be to describe the game as a Golden Axe filled with Emo’s. I know they’re defined as Punk Rockers in the game, but you’ll think EMO!!! It is also quite difficult in terms of gameplay in that it doesn’t offer a constant set of save points, but it does have a reminiscence to real Arcade games where you have to actually put the effort in to get anywhere near to completion. If you die it’s a matter of starting all over again too from the beginning of the section you’re at; but a good tip is never quit to menu at all costs since you will have to start the entire thing from scratch! This of course not only adds frustration, but more longevity – in a positive way of course!
The main story seems to be about survival and rivalry between bands as rock band Charlie Murder puts you on a quest to save the world from rival death metalers Gore Quaffer and their legions of evil who are the main enemies you face on screen. It also has an RPG-esque take on it where you can find collectibles, buy and sell goods, level up your character, use special abilities which grant you unique ways to perform amazing kills en-mass, and unlock items using an in-game Windows Phone as scan out QR codes! It is a genius mix of punk rock meets 90’s style arcade game retro beat-em-up, and as far as beat-em-ups goes this is pretty damn decent, but not without its gripes because it will make you frustrated in a way that you will want to bash your TV in with the controller, or throw your Xbox out of the window – when you do inevitably die it sadly is the end of your journey and a real “that’s it”, proving just how used to a flurry of save points we are as gamers. Each of the Bosses too require a tactical thinking strategy to your approach, if you rush in and just beat the X button to a pulp on your controller you will die without thinking it through. It’s so very easy to die so many times.
Due to the RPG nature of the game, it does allow for Skill Points to be earned for defeating Bosses and killing enemies amongst “many” other things, but you can choose to allocate these points to improve your Strength, Defence and Speed which should allow you stay alive for longer if wisely allocated. The better you become, and the more points you acquire should thankfully keep you going that little bit longer. Health Hearts are scattered around here, there and everywhere as well coins to build up you cash status so that you can make in-game purchases for apparel that can offer advantages to your fighting style and survival techniques.
I would say on the whole it is an excruciatingly difficult game to beat on one sitting. However I can confirm how much more fun this game is for co-operative action. It looks as though it was solely built for a great four player experience among friends to enjoy as playing alone with such a difficult quest did prove to feel really repetitive. In the early stages of the game it felt lack-lustre, just button mash and move-on because it’s just a case of messing with the X and Y buttons! Then you visit the sections where you get to control vehicles, defeat giant Burgers, partake in the mini games, and jump about defeating ninja’s to their deaths. You’ll roam streets filled with shops, grave yards with deadly witches and by that point you’ve been reeled in so much you just want to try and beat it!
For 800 MS Points (or cash equivalent) it is a worthwhile purchase if only to play the game in co-operative mode. As a standalone single player going solo you are likely to feel frustrated and annoyed by the lack of save points that one more try will soon just become losing the will to live. Amazing how a game can be transformed into a super improved experience when there are more players in the game co-operatively beating the hell out of the evil horde together and sharing in the misery of a lack of save points. It works well and I am not intentionally dissing the lack of saves as it positively enhances the survival experience and brings home the memories of how games used to play with that “just another go” frame of mind.
Great for a small group of friends.
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