Charlie Murder (XBLA) Review – To Hell & Back all the While Kicking some Ass

Developed by Ska Studios, Charlie murder is a brawler set in a punk rock apocalypse. The developers have worked hard to present an original fluid art style while adding a compelling soundtrack to the mix.  Along with this they have added a load of fun gameplay options on top of loot hunting and stat raising similar to many RPG games. Unfortunately not everything in Charlie Murder works as well as one would hope, but there is a lot of entertainment to be had with this title that pushes a lot of boundaries making for a game that that won’t be forgotten.

Upon selecting one of five playable characters in the beginning you’ll immediately die, battle enemies from hell, and then be reborn into hell on Earth. Charlie Murder’s entire presentation seems like a punk rock tribute to classic brawlers like Double Dragon and Streets of Rage. All of the game’s characters, from the average grunt to Charlie’s Band to the final boss, all exude personality. Charlie Murder offers players five different character classes – beserker, mage, tank, shaman, and mesmer – and each comes with its own plot as well as its own set of skills and abilities. On top of that, Charlie Murder has a huge roster of enemy types to keep the game feeling fresh.

The soundtrack is awesome. Naturally it is composed of epic rock tunes, but not only is it fitting but it is complimentary to the entire experience. Charlie Murder’s narrative is structured around fame, revenge, and relationships. Most titles in the brawler genre tend to have fairly flat narratives but Charlie Murder delivers an interesting plot line along with a fair amount of back-story about Charlie and his band mates. Flashbacks occur sparsely throughout the game, providing said back-story. I enjoyed how Ska Studios presented these scenes through the use of minimal dialog.

Boss battles are frequent, with back-to-back boss fights being a regular occurrence. Some boss battles are more entertaining then others, but as a whole Charlie Murder does a solid job keeping combat interesting with varied enemies. Additionally there are loads of environmental traps, weapons, guns, and other goodies to keep combat fresh.

Charlie Murder manages to mix things up consistently with shoot-’em-up portions, rhythm games, and several other types of mini-games.  Fortunately these portions of the game don’t show up too often, but just often enough that they are welcome when they appear. It’s nice to see a mix of gameplay elements, as you don’t necessarily get bored with this brawler as it’s not all about just hammering through wave after wave of enemies.

The RPG elements show up as you manage your inventory and allocate your skill points. The tattoo mechanic is probably one of my favorite aspects of Charlie Murder as different tattoos dictate what abilities will be available. You can also pick up or buy pieces of armor and weapons, all of which can be displayed on your character if you wish. Equipment design seems a bit like an afterthought due to some odd design choices, but I am glad that it was still a present feature of the game as it does contribute to pro longing the lifespan of the game.

With your Windows 8 phone in hand you’ll level up your skills and manage your abilities. The Windows 8 Phone UI is a great idea to immerse players, but the screen is uncomfortably small and at times I felt it hampered the experience. The game also utilizes the phone’s system to send the player messages, serving as the games tutorial system. Being that the phone screen is difficult to read, learning the games mechanics isn’t as straightforward as it should be all things considered.

Charlie Murder features loads of hidden areas, extra bosses, and items to hunt. Additionally there is even a secret ending. Charlie Murder offers a PvP arena too, which is surprisingly fun when playing with your buddies. For a $10 arcade title (800 MS Points) this brawler offers an impressive amount of content, one that will satisfy the solo or four-player co-op fan alike for hours on end. Support for online play is great, but it does bother me that the game limits the party to one slot for each character. I ran into problems with this, as it would prevent my friends from playing with each other if they happened to level up the same person.

With its wild punk rock vibe, Charlie Murder is a solid game offering up more then the average Xbox Live arcade title. The lengthy campaign is a lot of fun to tear through with friends, and the great soundtrack makes for a fun atmosphere. The disruptive menu mechanics take away from the experience, but if you can over look this, Ska Studios has created an entertaining game that is worth every penny of its price point.

The Good


The Bad