Charlie Murder Review (XBLA)
Charlie Murder is the second release of the Xbox Live Summer of Arcade for 2013. The game is developed by ska studios (The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai/Vampire Smile), and published by Microsoft Studios. Microsoft do tend to pick some of the best Arcade games to feature in their Summer of Arcade promotions, so you can be forgiven for having high expectations.
But where do you start a review for a game that has everything? Literally everything. It’s like someone took a checklist of gameplay elements and just put it all in there. Beat-em-up? Check. Schmup? Check. Zombies? Check. Music button sequences, Flamethrowers, character progression, four player local co-op, Ninjas, mini games, Alcohol, Chainsaws, heads popping, button mashing combos, driving sequence, loot, movie and other game references? Check, check, check and check for all of them! But here’s the good part, they ALL work in the game. Not a single element in there makes you think, “ok, that’s a bit random,” or “that has nothing to do with the game”.
You play as either Charlie Murder himself, or one of his band mates. Got three friends round? Well you can play as the whole band on four player local coop. Each of the characters has a different type; berserker, mage etc. Playing as any character will level that character up for you, so if you are playing on your own, you can go through at least four playthroughs of the game. Playing with friends will make the game considerably easier, but it is possible to play through by yourself. Leveling up your character is done through your phone (a Windows phone of course). You can also use your phone to check on your fans via a twitter-esq app, check your emails, or use the camera to capture any of the QR codes and other hidden objects in the game. Doing so gets you either items, fans or cash. You’ll be able to kit out your character with all sorts of discovered or purchased clothing.
As I’ve mentioned, there are so many different gameplay elements to the game, yet the controls are rather simplistic. The X button is your (mashed) attack button, with Y used for a more powerful attack. There are a variety of combos for you to use, and as your character levels up and gets better equipment you will unlock more combos to use. One of Charlies combos has you beating your opponent up into the air, and as long as they aren’t considerably bigger than you, you can press the grab button (B) to do a tornado slam into the ground with them, dealing major damage and also minor damage to anyone near where you land. This is just one example of nice, seamless animations. Besides melee attacks, you can pick up pretty much anything that falls as a weapon. Brains, bones, broken shopping trolleys, chainsaws, flamethrowers, shotguns. Oh the fun you can have with these…
Along with these attack options, you can have up to four special skills or powers to use. These are tied into getting tattoos. There are a few tattoo parlours spread throughout the game, each of which sells different tattoos that unlock the different powers. These powers range from a deadly scream that knocks back and damages any enemies in front of Charlie, to a cyclone that picks up all the loose items in the environment and hurls it around, causing damage to all enemies that get caught up in the carnage. To use any of these abilities you need to have regenerated them through your natural Anar-chi, or by consuming something to help with cooldown, such as a bird…
There is a story in there behind all the awesome gameplay, and it’s not bad either. I’m not going to ruin it for you, but it close to the typical “best friend feels betrayed and goes hell-bent on destroying you in vengeance.” What is great about the story is that it lulls you into the sense that you are about to finish the game, only for you to find out you are only about half way through. Honestly, if it had ended at that point it wouldn’t have been a disappointment, especially considering this is an arcade game worth only 800 MS points. But you get a boatload of gameplay for your buck here.
The art style of Charlie Murder is similar to ska studios previous titles, and it fits the theme perfectly. It’s lovely watching heads pop, brains roll about on the floor and hearts ripped from chests. The music on offer is also perfect at every turn, yet not always what you would expect. As Charlie Murder is the frontman of a punk rock band, you would expect pure punk rock throughout. However, they have provided the right soundtrack for each scene in the game, and it’s one that has a variety of different styles.
There really is very little bad to say about Charlie Murder. It doesn’t auto-save enough, and sometimes when you are obliterated you have to traverse quite a distance to get back to the place you were at, but even that’s not always the worst thing as it will sometimes put you back near a shop or brewery where you can stock up on items or craft some alcohol. And the main enemies on your path back will be clear if you defeated them already. Ok there, I said something negative about it. Happy? No? Well go download Charlie Murder from the xbox live marketplace, play it, and then tell me I’m wrong!
5 different ways to kill a zombie out of 5Charlie Murder Review (XBLA),