The latest offering from the company who gave the world The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, introduces Charlie Murder . . . possibly the only band ever invented that’s actually worse than my own high school punk band.
Nonetheless, the band in this 2D side-scrolling beat ‘em up is world famous. But lead singer Charlie didn’t reach his station without making any enemies. Charlie’s lifetime best friend and jam buddy, Paul, is not exactly thrilled with Charlie Murder’s success - mostly because he’s not a member of the band. So Paul, naturally, becomes the Grim Reaper and unleashes Hell on Earth. How he does this doesn’t seem to matter. What does matter is that Charlie Murder has to fight through hordes of zombies, giant rats and demons to survive.
Combat in Charlie Murder is very much like The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, but overall the game feels a lot like the lovechild of Castle Crashers and Brutal Legend. It’s musical and tongue-in-cheek like the latter, but the cartoony art style and snappy animations definitely seem inspired by the former.
You don’t have to play as lead singer Charlie - there are five characters to choose from, and each is a different class. You can choose from a Berserker, Mesmer, Shaman, Tank or Mage. Each of the different characters has punch and kick attacks, which you execute by tapping X or Y. Where they differ is in their special moves, which are aligned with their instruments: Charlie uses his voice to attack, and Tommy plays a note or two on his bass guitar which reverberates over the battlefield. These attacks might freeze an enemy, push them back, or create a giant acid rain cloud.
Then there are the co-op special attacks - these attacks you can only get by pulling off a combo of 20 attacks (less, if you have an item that helps). The Mesmer’s attack makes an ally spin around her over and over, and that ally can repeatedly unleash one of his more powerful attacks. The Shaman creates a huge robot, with one player controlling movement and the other controlling the machine’s arm cannons. Those special attacks are often the difference between killing everything in sight in 10 seconds flat, and being obliterated.
While the combat may get repetitive if you’re playing through Charlie Murder on your own, when you’re on the couch playing with a friend, it’s a blast. The game requires a fair bit of teamwork at times, and you’ll feel really great when you pull off some really sweet moves and work together to completely destroy a boss. When my co-op buddy and I finished the late-game boss fights, many elated high-fives were exchanged.
If you’re a bit averse to blood and guts, this won’t be your game. The violence is cartoonish and comical, but still manages to surprise at times. If in-game gore makes you giggle, though, you’ll love watching the ludicrous and amusing bloodshed unfold.
Charlie Murder also has RPG elements, which are surprisingly addictive given that they’re often unnecessary. Throughout the game, you’ll collect money to buy things. There’s money in almost anything that’s breakable, from tables to cars to shopping trolleys. You’ll often also find other items, like guns or chainsaws, which can only be used a handful of times in combat before they deteriorate.
Problem is, looting these items becomes relatively pointless later in the game. You get loot from killing enemies, as well, and generally that loot sells for a lot of money. However, from destroying a wayward shopping trolley you’ll only get maybe a dollar, if you’re lucky. Toward the end, I was collecting so much valuable loot from enemies that I didn’t need to create any extra havoc by destroying my surroundings.
My biggest criticism of Charlie Murder is its save system, or lack thereof. The game autosaves, but does so scarcely, and doesn’t give you an option to physically save it yourself. The game also doesn’t save in some places where it seems like it obviously should - it doesn’t save at the end of each level, and you can’t force it to save in any way that I could find. That’s an issue when you get to the final battle, die, and then discover that you have to run through not one but two levels all over again.
That said, the save issue seems like a relatively minor one. While you’re not going to get an artistic masterpiece that analyses the state of society in Charlie Murder, you will have a lot of fun if you get some friends over to play with you. Drink a beer while you’re at it, too - it’s the ultimate party game. Crappy punk music, breweries, tattoos, and exploding heads - can’t get much more party than that.