I once compared Ska Studios' previous works, The Dishwasher and Dead Samurai, to Ninja Gaiden by saying how both works were a 2D gothic representation of Ninja Gaiden thanks to the insane difficulty, hectic action and gory nature of the game. For their most recent game, Charlie Murder, I will make the same type of comparison. This game reminds me a lot of Scott Pilgrim vs The World (one of my favorite arcade games) because of the 2D-style beat em' up nature and the RPG elements thrown in. Of course, Ska Studios added the same unique look from their past installments and applied it here, which means one thing, folks: a guaranteed bloody, fun time. Charlie Murder is a 4 player cooperative beat em' up that gives you one task, and one task only: brutally murder any and everything in your path!
don't have any friends that have this game, so I've had to play solo for
the time being. Still, it doesn't matter as I'm enjoying my time
stomping heads, throwing brains and beating enemies with severed limbs. There are five playable classes/characters to choose from, and each
with their own unique abilities and movesets. For my first playthrough,
I decided to choose Charlie Murder as my harbinger of death and I
literally screamed my foes to death. By using Anar-Chi, players can
utilize a special move, and in Charlie's case, it's a scream that damages
foes in front of him. Besides the use of Anar-Chi, X and Y buttons can
be used in tandem to create combos. While I didn't like the lack of a
combo list, it didn't take long for me to figure out what button
sequences I should learn. There's also the ability to grab enemies and
to block incoming attacks. Simply put, within an hour, a
lot of the mechanics start to unveil themselves. I do have to admit that the combat starts to get repetitive after awhile once the realization that no other combos could be unlocked, and only 3 combo sets were available.
even has upgrades for the Anar-Chi moves in the form of tattoos. What I
mean is once you scrounge up enough cash, head on over to the tattoo
parlor to get some ink on that body. Tattoos represent different
abilities such as a poisonous whirlwind scream or being able to summon a
bag of guns. Now, it would be really unfair if Anar-chi could be used
at will because fights would just become a cakewalk. After using a
certain type of Anar-Chi, there is a cooldown time before it can be used
again. Players can equip up to four Anar-chi moves at anytime, and I
personally mixed it up to see what combinations worked best. To break up the constant fighting, mini-games are placed between each area-- offering a break from destruction. I'm only half-kidding since some of the mini-games play-out like those old-school 2D shooters. Flying through the sky with a witch's broom caught me off-guard, but somehow fits right in. The other half of the mini-games are Rock Band-like; requiring players to hit the corresponding button in the correct rhythm.
Different types of clothing serve the purpose of stat-boosters in Charlie Murder, and can be found at stores scattered throughout the game, or found as randomly-generated loot. Sometimes, foes will drop items, and destroying the environment can lead to fruitful findings. Each clothing item equipped changes how the character looks. By the end of my first run, Charlie was dressed in a striped beanie, a custom colored jacket and chains wrapped around my fists for extra attack power. By the way, what I meant by custom colored jacket was that I changed the color using dyes, which can be found in various stores that the game provides. I know it's not much of a customization, but at least it's something, right?
Since this title has some dashes of RPG elements thrown in, it would be weird if there were no level system, right? By defeating enemies and bosses, characters level-up and points are used to distribute across four main categories: Strength, speed, defensive and Anar-Chi. In addition to boosting those stats, skill points are granted to add more, well, you guessed it, skills. Whether it's increasing the amount of items you can hold, or buying new attack moves, the skill points are most helpful down the road. The in-game menu consists of using a cell phone and it is here where you can check your skills, add points, check text messages and use a fake Twitter called squ.iddl.us. I found it to be quite useless, though, leading me to rarely even look at the page. What I did find to be mighty helpful was the camera. Scattered throughout the world are bar code stickers and the objective here is to snap a photo of them to net some free stuff. Anything from clothing, items, relics, and so on can be obtained with the bar codes.
Running through this game solo has taught me something: playing by yourself is going to be brutal. I started out on normal, and found myself losing at times or taking longer to beat a boss than necessary. While playing on Chaos mode, I can tell that back up is required.
Charlie Murder features two endings, from what I've discovered:A good ending and a bad ending. I'm not positive on what the requirements are to get a good ending, but it helps to add replay value to this arcade title. A word of advice for those that most definitely won't have friends to play with: This game was meant to be played with other players due to the difficulty, but also for the repetitive combat. If you don't mind spending $10 on this and playing alone or with randoms, go right ahead. I figured I would just throw that information out there for those still on the fence. I don't mean to say this is a bad game, because it certainly is not. These types of games are best played with others rather than alone.
In my opinion, Charlie Murder does a pretty good job at making you feel for characters, even with the bare-bones plot. Told in short cutscenes, I eventually figured out why Lord Mortimer (Charlie's enemy and killer) wants Charlie and his band dead. It's a story of betrayal and revenge that left me feeling like maybe Charlie isn't such a good guy after all. Ultimately, situations like this happen often in the real world, which is probably why I felt sorry for Mortimer.
Charlie Murder offers a good old-school time with some mindless violence thrown in. Going through the game could take about 9-10 hours to complete, but unless you are striving to get everything done, there's not much reason to go back. Add friends to the equation, and that becomes a different story seeing how 4 player co-op always adds more fun. Grab a couple of friends and enjoy this bloody arcade game!