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Have You Played… Castle Crashers?

Crikey

Castle Crashers was, like predecessor Alien Hominid, a beautifully animated, arcady, 2D scrolling beat ‘em up by The Behemoth. It eventually made it to PCs in 2012, although it was out on console in 2008. Curiously, however, I know for sure that I played it in 2007 - I guess it must have been a demo, or something. But good grief, what a vivid memory I have of playing it. Yep, that’s right - prepare for another wild swerve off the road of talking about the actual game, and into the rugged backcountry of soul-rummaging reflection.

It was December 2007. I was 23 and, following what I will just describe as a bit of a mental health catastrophe, I had decided to leave the country for a bit, in the hope of getting my head back together. I had ended up in Melbourne, where a couple of mates were on a temp contract working for an electricity firm. The plan was for me to kill time there for a week or so, and then we’d hire a van and drive about a bit, having fun. We did that in the end, and it was good. But the ten days I spent alone in Melbourne were fucking bleak.

I was still pretty damned fragile, and so maybe it wasn’t the best idea to live in the cheapest youth hostel I could find, sharing a room with a man I only remember by the internal nickname I gave him: Lieutenant Lies. The Lieutenant was so named for his constant, clearly fictional anecdotes about the fistfights, drinking bouts, and near-slayings of police officers foolish enough to attempt to contain him that had occurred during his time in the military. He was a deeply unpleasant man, who sweated a vast amount. On three separate nights, he woke me up by having industrial-strength, passionless sex marathons with strangers on the bunk above me, while watching Top Gun on a laptop at deafening volume.

Given that this was what I had to look forward to each evening - plus, y’know, the breakdown - my days were a bit melancholy. One of those days, however, was a small piece of heaven. I’d been dutifully trying to see all the sights in Melbourne - I’d blown pretty much all my savings to get this far from home, and I didn’t want to end up not “getting my money’s worth”. So I trudged around, dutifully making sure to look at things. And then one morning, I passed… I think, maybe, it was the museum of modern art? I’m not sure. But I saw they had a video games exhibition, and thought I’d have a quick look before I got on with things.

The exhibition, as it turned out, was a room full of PCs and a couple of consoles, loaded up with weird or nice-looking “indie” games (cos that was still a thing at the time), and it was completely deserted. Castle Crashers was the first thing I sat down and played, and I remember feeling so relieved I nearly wept. Because it was just… fun. It was knowable, and simple, and pretty, after months of uncertainty, near-muggings, binge drinking, coke can bongs, and sweating liars who fucked to Top Gun.

It must have only been a demo, because I think it only went up to the first boss - the big geezer who tries to batter you with a gate. But I played it with all four characters, a good couple of times each. And then I realised that two chairs over, there was a PC with a copy of Dwarf Fortress on it. In the end, I stayed in that quiet, dark little exhibition space all day. And I came back the next day, and spent all day in there too. I think two other visitors came in, the whole time. At the time, I was intensely guilty, thinking it was near criminal of me to sit inside playing games when I could be out doing things. But in hindsight, it was the only moment of true peace in a long, dark patch. Thanks, Castle Crashers. Thastle Thrashers.

About the Author

Nate Crowley avatar

Nate Crowley

Reviews Editor

Nate Crowley was created from smokeless flame before the dawn of time. He writes books, and tweets a lot as @frogcroakley. Each October he is replaced by Ghoastus, the Roman Ghost. You can email him at: nate.crowley@rockpapershotgun.com

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