I’m getting real sick of calling select video games a “love letter” to a certain a type of genre of yesteryear. At this point it is just cliché. Luckily for me, I won’t have to say that much longer seeing as how Charlie Murder bites off the head off of love letters everywhere and knee slides across the room in the most rock and roll way imaginable. I think I just called it a love letter in my own special way. God dammit.
Charlie Murder is in fact another resurrection of the classic side-scrolling beat ’em up but with an extremely punk rock twist. The story revolves around Charlie Murder, an infamous shaggy-haired punk rocker who is the lead singer of a band sporting his very name. He dies, finds himself on Satan’s doorstep, and is then abruptly brought back into the world of the living thanks to an EMT resuscitating him, only to find out that world has been taken over by zombies, demons and other monsters that are a perfect fit for a heavy metal album cover. Now back in the world of the living and dead, Charlie is out to find out who murdered him and to kick some apocalyptic ass along the way.
Charlie Murder (Xbox Live Arcade)
Developer: Ska Studios, LLC
Publisher: Ska Studios, LLC
Released: August 14, 2013
Gameplay is exactly what you would expect from a game of this genre. You move from left to right and punch enemies as they appear. Despite being mainly a two-button affair, the combat is quite satisfying thanks to the wide variety of abilities, weapons and the RPG-like stats system. To break up the beat ’em upping, there are several other gameplay mechanics and extracurricular activities to indulge yourself in. When Charlie plays the guitar, you’re tasked with hitting on screen button prompts like in Parappa or Guitar Hero. Some of these sequences are a little too long and keep you from doing what you want to, but they remain a welcome addition to the game. There are also puzzle mechanics like building a hamburger by tossing ingredients in a certain order into a sandwich maker to open up the next area of the level. You will also find yourself ramming a bus full of ninjas in a car that looks like it was bought on a punk rocker’s salary. All this fun doesn’t have to be had alone, as Charlie Murder supports four-player co-op where other players play as members of Charlie’s band.
Charlie Murder oozes personality, which is something I believe a left-to-right beat ’em up has to have to survive in the modern age. In terms of personality, Charlie Murder is right up there with the modern greats such as Castle Crashers and Scott Pilgrim VS The World. From the soundtrack to the unique art style, I found myself in complete awe for the duration of my play-through. Charlie Murder is truly one of those games that puts a hold on you and won’t let go, even after you’ve completed it. The dark humor constantly left a smile on my face.
My favorite feature in the game is the radio station that plays when you’re in a tattoo parlor. It plays commercials and the occasional song, just like in real life! I was shocked to discover that Activision sweetheart Dan “One of Swords” Amrich has an audio cameo on the radio in Charlie Murder! I won’t go into spoiler territory, because you’ll know Dan when you hear him.
Ska Studios has come a long way since The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai and I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1. While their previous games have been great, I firmly believe that Charlie Murder is the video game that will headline their tour into greatness. It’s a must buy for gamers wanting to scratch that old school itch or someone looking to indulge themselves in some subject matter that’s rarely touched in video games.