Charlie Murder Review for Xbox 360

Charlie Murder Review for Xbox 360

Murdering Charlie

Ever dream of living a life of punk-rock squalor and beating up hordes of zombies too? Me neither, but the idea grows on you throughout the course of Charlie Murder , the latest project of Ska Studios–the two-person team behind I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1NIT!!!1 and the Dishwasher games.

Charlie Murder is basically a combination of everything the studio has done to this point and more. It’s a side-scrolling beat ’em up with zombies, graphic cartoon violence, and the occasional shoot ’em-up or rhythm section. And on top of that, a variety of RPG mechanics give this title depth, Castle Crashers style. Though there are some design flaws that can be highly frustrating, on the whole, it’s a great buy for $10.

The story here is a bit odd. Charlie Murder is a punk band, the five members of which–including Charlie himself, the lead singer–are your playable characters. A rival band that plays death metal is trying to kill Charlie. Also, that band has armies of zombie soldiers. So, you’ll need to massacre your way through the undead on your way to taking down the members of the opposing band.

Makes sense, right? Well, not really, but who cares? The style here is much more important than the plot particulars.

The grungy comic-book artwork is something to behold, and the developers didn’t pull any punches creating the most depraved world they possibly could. Sure, there’s plenty of blood and guts, but that’s old hat to any real gamer–here, you’ll come across an orphan who eats glass bottles for fun, and you’ll massacre a bunch of innocent people in one particularly disturbing scene. It’s just that sick, and the sense of twisted glee is equal parts scary and contagious.

Charlie Murder Screenshot

The music is a great help, too, with plenty of ratty punk and other loud rock varieties, but the soundtrack also touts the occasional acoustic offering or trippy psychedelic song. It’s quite an accomplishment for a small team to pull together such a great assortment of tunes for a game.

The basic combat mechanics are nothing special: two attacks, a grab, a jump, and a block. But the enemy design is handled well–easy enough at first that button mashing can be fun, but hard enough over time to demand some strategy–and the game goes to great lengths to make the experience change constantly, from dramatically varying visual environments to new enemy types to gradual shifts in the gameplay.

Charlie Murder Screenshot

Each of the characters is a little different to begin with (berserker, mage, etc.), and as you level up, you can select various power-ups and allocate skill points. (The skill allotment is limited, though: At any given level, your skills are capped at a certain point, which forces you to spread the points out a bit.) You’ll come across a sizable amount of gear, too, as well as character-specific special attacks you can learn by being tattooed. There’s even a crafting system; you’ll collect the ingredients needed to make beer and then brew it.

In part, all of this is just a process of picking out the best stuff, but it’s also a process of developing a style that works for you. And when you’re done, you can start again with a different character or play with your friends–the game supports one to four players, local or online, co-op or PvP.

There’s only one major problem here, but unfortunately, it can seriously detract from your enjoyment of the game: The checkpoint system is just really horrible. When you die, you might find yourself booted back through quite a bit of gameplay, including boss fights. When replaying, you sometimes have the option of running past normal enemies instead of fighting them, but you have to redo the bosses–and at any rate, being forced to run through parts of a stage you’ve already beaten is just an insulting waste of time. This becomes especially infuriating toward the end of the game, when the difficulty really starts ramping up.

Charlie Murder Screenshot

Usually, I coped with this by just re-fighting all the enemies for EXP, turning my deaths into an opportunity to grind rather than a pure time-waster. It also helps to stock up on health potions; the inventory limit is quite generous. (This is just one way the game can resemble action-RPGs such as Torchlight –the health is basically unlimited, but you have to use it well.) But many people will probably just quit in frustration, and a more efficient checkpoint system would dramatically improve the game. No one likes redoing things they’ve already mastered just to get to the hard part. Perhaps more checkpoints can be added via patch at a later date.

Someone intent on nitpicking could highlight some smaller issues, too. The radio shows that play in some of the shops repeat themselves too soon, and a few of the bosses can feel pretty cheap. While the idea of having a cell phone that keeps track of messages and stats might work in theory, it’s a little small on the screen and kind of annoying to navigate.

But there’s no getting around the fact that Charlie Murder is a blast to play, alone or with friends, and that it’s well worth your $10 if you love beating the crap out of zombies and laughing at bloody, disturbing, slapstick antics. There must be at least a few gamers out there who meet that description.

The comic-book art is a sight to behold, and the environments change often. 4.0 Control
It’s pretty basic–jump, punch, grab, and block. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There’s a nice assortment of tunes that naturally focuses on punk and hard rock. 4.0 Play Value
This is a blast to play, though the checkpoint system is frustrating. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • It’s a punk-rock apocalypse! Team up with your friends to lead embattled punk-rock band Charlie Murder in their epic quest to save the world from rival death-metalers Gore Quaffer and their legions of evil.
  • RPG it up as you hoard insane loot to buff your character (and look excellent).
  • Earn fans to unlock powerful finishers and team-up moves.
  • Get tattoos to channel your “Anar-Chi,” and uncover mysterious relics of modern myth!

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