Charlie Murder Review

Charlie MuderCharlie Murder (Available exclusively on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Beat ’em Up
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Ska Studios
Release Date: August 14th, 2013

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Charlie Murder M for mature because of violence, blood and gore, and the use of drugs and alcohol. You take on the role of one of five punk rockers who fight everything in their path. You can rip off someone’s arm and beat them to death with it. There’s even a scene where someone’s face is ripped off. Sure the game’s cartoony graphics may make you think this one would be suitable for all ages, but don’t make the mistake. This is a game clearly aimed at adults.

Plays Like: If you grew up playing games like Double Dragon or Streets of Rage, Charlie Murder will feel like second nature. You can perform simple combos, pick up weapons and use them against your foes, but the game goes further than that by introducing a leveling system where you can increase your stats, and unlock new combos. There are shops where you can purchase better gear and weapons, and there are even a wide assortment of mini-games thrown in for good measure.

Review Basis: Microsoft sent us a review code, and I played all the way to the very last stage, and played both online and offline.

Beat ’em ups used to be one of my favorite genres growing up. In the arcades I used to spend what little money I had either going to town on the the latest spaceship shooter, beat ’em up, or eventually on fighters. Charlie Murder takes the new-age anarchist punk movement and mashes it with a classic beat ’em up. The results are mostly delightful, although a few sour notes do bring the package down somewhat.

Charlie Muder2The Great:

Charlie Murder is far deeper than you might think. Defeating enemies nets you cash, which can be used to purchase upgraded gear, and power-ups. You can find ingredients scattered around the environment and dropped from defeated enemies, which allow you to create your own beer. Beer grants all sorts of wicked enhancements. Your cellphone also has unique abilities. Emails progress the storyline a bit, and teach new combos. There’s a Twitter-like app which adds humor and a way to show your level progression. There’s even a camera app which allows you to scan the environment for QR codes, which unlock new items.

Charlie Murder1The Good:

+ Story is so ridiculous it works. You play as one of five band mates whose sole purpose is to stop Paul, the sixth and disgruntled member who was ejected from the group right before they made it big. Paul made a deal with the devil and now leads a demoniac heavy metal band, which has had the small side effect of unleashing all hell on the Earth. As any good rock star would do, you aim to fix this mess.

+ Graphical presentation does a great job of helping to break up the monotonous feeling of beating the crap out of endless wave of ninjas, zombies, and whatever else you can think of. Each new location is distinctly different than the last. One moment you might be fighting off hordes of zombies in a snowed in graveyard, and the next you”re taking on hallucinations from someone in a mental hospital.

+ Art style is rough and gritty, which fits perfectly in-tune with the anarchist feeling the developer was going for.

+ Each band member has a distinct class, and therefore their own unique move set. Charlie, the band’s vocalist can learn magical screaming attacks, while Lester, the band’s guitarist acts more like a mage, and can cast spells. Special power-ups are unlocks by getting new tattoos, which was a really nice touch. Having each band member feel different was an excellent decision on the part of Ska Studios, because it encourages players to try all the different playable characters, and also differentiates each character from one another.

+ Co-op is a blast. Grab three friends and enjoy, as there’s nothing like playing with buddies.

Charlie Murder3The So-So:

+/- Even with all the cool special moves, co-op moves, and weapon pick-ups, in time I found myself using the same generic X and Y attacks over and over again because those were the moves I could count on. There are more robust combos players can pull off, but the reward is seldom worth the effort.

+/- There are a wide assortment of mini-games thrown in for good measure, like quick time events, and DDR-inspired music mini-games, but ultimately each one feels tacked on. They help break up the non-stop button mashing of the rest of the game, but occasionally feel uninspired.

Charlie Muder5The Bad:

– At the end of the day, no matter how much variety or added mini-games there are, the core gameplay gets repetitive over time.

– If you play the solo campaign you might have to do some grinding as checkpoints are often very far from where you died. Mid-bosses can also prove quite challenging, but future attempts make you stronger, so either you learn to beat your opponents or you’ll eventually overpower them.

The Ugly:

Some of the animations can be downright nasty, but they’re always humorous in the context of the story. One scene in particular was truly gruesome. An innocent bystander gets grabbed by some pumpkin-head muscle bound freak, has his face ripped off, and thrown at Charlie. The face hits the ice with a splat and then proceeds to slide across the ice. Yummy!

Charlie Muder4

The Lowdown:

Charlie Murder is a far deeper beat ’em up than I thought it would be. It tries a lot of different things, with most coming together surprisingly well. Even with these fresh new ideas it can’t completely remove the monotonous nature of the genre, but if you’re into these types of games you could do far worse. This is a great one to spend an afternoon on with a group of friends, either online or off.

Final Score: 8/10

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