The arcade brawler. Long ago, before home consoles became immensely popular, the best way you could find co-op joy was going to your local pizzeria or get-together spot and play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, X-Men or The Simpsons Arcade as a group of four (or in X-Men's case, six). Those brawlers live on these days with digital releases, as all three of those games are available on Xbox Live, while Simpsons and X-Men can also be found on PlayStation Network.
But James Silva wants to do more than that. The one-man development crew, who found fame developing The Dishwasher games for Microsoft as well as the Xbox Live Indie darling I Made a Game With Zombies!!! (that's the regular spelling, by the way) is returning with his latest project, a goofy, over-the-top beat-em-up for up to four players to enjoy. Get ready for Charlie Murder.
Shown off at several indie expo events (including the more recent PAX Prime in Seattle), Charlie Murder has been getting a whopping amount of attention from the gaming public, and for good reason. Its inspiration is definitely taken from the arcade beat-em-ups of old, but there's a staggering amount of depth beneath the game's surface, one that will keep you coming back for hours, just to see what all the new features do for your hero.
The game follows a group of four heavy metal band members, as they kick and thrash their way against a rival punk rock group that's tired of sharing the spotlight with them. Their bickering couldn't come at a worse time, as the world is suffering the worst kind of zombie apocalypse you can imagine. So not only does the band have to put up with annoying rivals, but they have to avoid being munched on by the undead as well.
Each band member is capable of holding his way with a number of up-close attacks, smacking someone to the pavement and even performing some classic jump kick moves, should they need to kick someone quickly out of the way. But the combat does a step above that with the introduction of various weapons in the environment. You can easily pick up anything from a trash can to an exploding barrel to fend off zombies, while also occasionally picking up a weapon that does even greater damage, such as a flamethrower. Because if there's something that you shouldn't miss out on, it's watching zombies burn to a crisp.
Charlie Murder uses a crude yet original hand-drawn style, along the same lines as the Dishwasher games, with some bizarre characters, ranging from skinny band mates to some big ogre-like dude, each with their own special techniques. The enemies are equally weird, especially the bosses, who put up a stronger fight than you might imagine. The world surrounding them is dreary, but filled with just the right amount of stuff to keep you fighting, whether it's objects you can pick up for combat or flaming cars that sit in the distance.
Up to four players can take part in the action through either local play or Xbox Live Arcade, and it's way more fun as a group, mainly because you can compete to see who gets the most kills in a round. But the real enjoyment comes from the huge amount of content you can unlock throughout the game.
For instance, various tattoo shops will enable you to get inked and push your abilities with a number of magic spells, which grant you greater powers to turn the tables on your enemies. Though we didn't see this in the demo, Silva promises it'll be something awesome.
That's not all. Using the in-game smartphone that your character comes equipped with, you can track down hidden QR codes to download unique relics, which give you different techniques, ranging from health boosts to sparkling rainbows that give your fighting abilities a bit of polish.
Finally, there's looting, and this is where the game's decorative side takes over. By beating up certain baddies within the game, you're able to get your hands on all sorts of goods, including shirts, hats, gloves and other pieces of helpful equipment (aside from weapons). Putting these on change the appearance of your character, with creativity galore going into the way you look. Now we just need to wonder if there are any unicorn shirts in the game. Mr. Silva, care to comment…?
Though Charlie Murder doesn't have any sort of release date as of yet (all Silva would tell us is sometime in 2013), if it's anywhere near the same level of inspiration as the Dishwasher and Zombies games, we're in for a real delight – even with the oddball and brutal nature. Get ready to rock with Charlie Murder in the months ahead.