Castle Crashers is a 2D beat 'em up with some RPG elements. I'd heard a lot of people talk it up and even tried the demo before deciding to get this bad boy when it was on sale for Halloween. You get four characters to choose from, so you can potentially play a 1-4 player game right out of the gate. Each character has their own starting weapon, magical element, and appearance. You go through levels beating up bad guys and trying to save princesses. Along the way, you'll find some cool weapons and animal orbs that give you special perks, You can switch between them between levels by visiting the blacksmith. I don't typically enjoy beat 'em ups. They tend to get stale and boring, despite how many combos or different weapons the game wants to throw my way. But Castle Crashers adds in some RPG elements to keep it interesting. Sure, the different weapons, different characters with their magic, and different animal buddies all add some customization, but the leveling system is what truly gives this game replayability and a sense of progression. Upon leveling up, you'll gain points that can be put into any of the four stats you have, strength, defense, magic, and agility. Depending on what kind of playstyle you want to use or what role you have on the team, you can build accordingly. Do you want to focus on one or two stats? Or would you rather be more well rounded? How will you compliment your teammates? Or what is best for solo play? It gives some complexity to the otherwise simple concept, which is great.
The ability to play locally, cooperatively, or solo is nice for varied options and experiences. Essentially, each character you use equals one campaign. And there are a lot of unlockable characters, so this game does have a lot of replayability and lifespan. I also like the simple cartoony art style and some of the music is pretty cool. The main game with single and multiplayer, insane mode, two mini games, achievements, there's a lot of hours to be had with this title.
However, I DO need to point out a few flaws in the game. Castle Crashers is a game of diminishing returns. When you start, there's lots of new and exciting things to keep you hooked. New characters, new weapons, new animal buddies, new secondary items, new levels, and a blank slate to upgrage how you see fit. But after a while... it loses its luster. There are only so many characters, items, animal buddies, weapons, and levels in the game. Your upgrades get harder and harder to improve as the game goes on and you will start to gain less points per level. You max out at 78 and from then on it's very little change between levels. Insane mode, aside from a few exceptions, is basically the same as the normal game... excpet enemies take longer to kill and can kill you faster. More frustrating and time consuming than an increase in challenge. Also, the online isn't always the best. It depends on game settings, connection speeds, and the locations of the players for sure, but laggy games can be tough to get through, especially in crucial moments the requre precision. Not to mention that when the game literally has to stop and wait for the other players, it can get very annoying and tiresome. So I'd recommend finding people close enough for online, or simply doing local play if you're going to do multiplayer.
I like Castle Crashers. Sure, it has diminishing returns, and if you want to complete it with everyone at maximum everything... you'll be playing longer than you enjoy. But playing in moderation, trying to win rather than max everything, playing with other people... all of this can easily extend the playtime of the game while keeping it fun. Is it worth $15? Well... it really depends. If you like beat 'em ups a lot, then probably. Try out the demo and gauge your excitement. I'd say this game is probably worth about $10 generally, and when it goes on sale it tends to be cheaper anyway, so definitely go for it. I'd give Castle Crashers a solid 7/10. A good game, great for fans of beat 'em ups, but still alright for people who don't much care for them as well. I'm sure I'll get lots of hours in this game over the years, and you might too.