GAME NAME: Charlie Murder
DEVELOPER(S): Ska Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Microsoft Studios
PLATFORM(S): XBox 360 XBLA
GENRE(S): Beat ’em Up, RPG
RELEASE DATE(S): 14 August 2013
Brutality, chaos and PUNK are brief descriptions of what you’ll find in Ska Studios’ latest offering, Charlie Murder. This title takes classic beat ‘em up gameplay and infuses it with solid RPG elements. Add an outstanding soundtrack and overly gruesome limb splitting visuals, and you’re left with an end result that is undeniably ‘charming’.
You start off by selecting one of five somewhat shady characters, all of whom are band members for the now famous band Charlie Murder, headed by frontman… Charlie. Each of these characters has their own unique set of capabilities that, as you progress, can be upgraded by getting tattoos and drinking plenty of beer; they’re musicians after all, would you expect anything less?
The storyline delves into the band’s early days in which Charlie ventured away from his best friend and fellow band mate, Paul, in his pursuit for fame and glory. Paul, naturally, doesn’t take kindly to this betrayal and ends up making a pact with the devil himself, to obtain a similar status with his new goth band Gore Quaffer. You later find out that Paul’s agenda is far more sinister, and as revenge for this prior betrayal, he wants to see all of the members of Charlie Murder dead.
The game features a fairly standard beat ‘em up control system and is accessible enough for anyone to simply pick up and play. Its RPG elements and power ups play an essential part in the game’s progression and are monitored and accessed by your Windows mobile phone (Well played Microsoft). There is a slight overemphasis on your phone’s usage as it is used to manage your stats, receive messages and even take photos of in game QR codes for more unlockables; a clever concept indeed, but it’s nothing new and distracts from the overall gameplay at times. Another slight con to the game is that bashing away at the undead, pirates, ninjas and other odd characters can be challenging at times, and depending on your characters powers and progression, you could be working towards an untimely demise. This goes hand in hand with a checkpoint system that falls flat on its back and will, beyond a shadow of a doubt, leave you frustrated and with thoughts of murder. And as the game’s difficultly increases, so will those murderous intentions. Replaying whole sections is not only very possible but annoying and the game’s primary short coming.
Along with flying body parts and an addictive persona, action and combat is split up in the form of short rhythm sections that require well executed timing as well as playable interludes, some of which require you to progress by hacking away at crows with a coat hanger or flying across the skies tossing random pieces of trash at your opponents. These sections provide a satisfying and much needed break from the primary gameplay.
Checkpoint disasters aside, Charlie Murder offers a challenging (sometimes overly challenging) title with plenty of hidden goodies and replay value, if you are willing to restart the level as another character that is. The single player play through can be a nightmare but add a few friends in the co-op variation of the game and you are set up for hours of frenzied fun. While the title isn’t for everyone, at 800 MS points, it’s well worth picking up for the gamer that enjoys dabbing in the less conventional XBLA titles.
As a side note, the games soundtrack has been replaying itself in my head constantly while writing this interview. To get an idea of this dirty, rocking soundtrack, check out Ska Studio’s website.