Charlie Murder Review

Beer and blood spray punctuate the fun punk rock brawler Charlie Murder.

by

In line with the anarchistic vibe and punk rock aesthetic it emulates so well, Charlie Murder gets right in your face and starts up a flailing mosh pit of chaotic game mechanics even before the dissonant ring of the opening power chords fade from memory. No, ripping the limbs off your zombified foes and blissfully beating them to un-death with their own bloody appendages isn't enough for this ambitious and gory 2D brawler. There are beer components to collect for brewing boozy power-ups with, tattoos to accumulate, a cell phone full of updated content to stay on top of, and even noisily impromptu thrashy rhythm games to mash buttons through. That's just the beginning too. It's a lot to soak up at first, leaving you feeling swept up in the chaos at times. But once these ideas settle in, each jaw-dropping absurdity layered onto the fist-swinging framework ultimately helps to crank up the game's ballsy charm to 11.

Yes, that is a giant mohawk-sporting death droid.

Rather than a single protagonist, Charlie Murder stars a raucous punk rock band thrown into supernatural turmoil when a falling out with one of its members inadvertently spawns a serious rivalry. Spurned by his former bandmates, ex-guitarist Paul makes a pact with the devil, forms a demonic heavy metal group, and unleashes an unholy apocalypse upon the earth. Good times! It's a comical excuse to pummel through hordes of ninjas, demons, zombies, and mutated miscreants in ultraviolent fashion.

Taking a backseat to the gory action, the story unfolds in brief flashback vignettes that offer just enough backstory to give the excessive brutality a bit more purpose. A gritty hand-drawn art style also boosts the punker vibe and helps drive home the demented humor woven throughout the cartoonish mayhem. From gutting hippies in a massive psychedelic-fueled woodland massacre to fending off droves of demon-girl hallucinations in a dank mental hospital, the inventive settings and unsettling situations you encounter as you push further onward do a good job of counteracting the repetitive nature of the arcade brawling.

Each of the five playable band members represents a distinct "class" with a unique set of attack moves and a nice range of magical powers to unleash--the latter of which are obtained, in a very cool touch, by getting tattoos at seedy parlors scattered throughout the game. Whether it's Charlie the berzerker's screeching vocal blasts, Lester the mage's six-string spellcasting, or Rex the tank's drum-centric combat maneuvers, these band-member-specific moves make playing each character a lot of fun.

The brawling co-op action gets bloody and chaotic.

Outside of using special attacks, the straightforward brawling feels too limited at times. Sure, you punch heads off, clobber foes with instruments, and even team up with your cohorts to transform into towering beasts to pummel through the hordes, but it still often feels like you're delivering the same moves over and over again. That said, the crazy medley of auxiliary weapons you can pick up from foes and wield in battle does help change things up for the better. Severed heads, flamethrowers, ninja blades, chainsaws, knives, Uzis, and axes are among a broad range of deadly goodies to play and slay with.

Thrashing foes earns you coins to spend on power-ups and stat-boosting gear, but it's awesome that enemies also drop hops, malt, and yeast for you to collect to brew your own beer with. It's an unusual and surprising touch--one of many minor elements that come together to make Charlie Murder feel incredibly unique. Another is the role your character's in-game cell phone plays. You can use it to check emails that play into the story and explain new gameplay mechanics. There's a Twitter-like app that updates as you battle, and snapping photos of QR codes you find in the environment unlocks bonus items to use.

The phone also serves as a menu system for managing the game's light role-playing game elements, like stat upgrades and unlockable special attack moves. Other ideas don't feel as cohesive or well implemented. While they offer varying levels of amusement, minigame diversions like side-scrolling shooting stages, a punk rock button-mashing rhythm game, and a downhill surfing excursion feel arbitrarily tacked on to check off a nostalgia box.

Pump up the jam!

Playing solo is enjoyable, though it does have its downsides. The puzzling checkpoint system often kicks you backward quite a ways if you die, which can be frustrating in some of the more densely packed areas or in tricky boss battles. Co-op is really the way to go, since pals can revive fallen bandmates to prevent the aforementioned punting. Indeed, playing with friends locally or online maximizes the chaotic killing fun, but it also introduces a few other kinks. Waiting for teammates to manage their inventory can be an unwieldy process, particularly if they choose to do so in the middle of battle. You can also injure friends with wayward blows, rendering the chaotic mob brawls that so often erupt onscreen rather counterproductive when you wind up damaging comrades more than your adversaries. Still, these minor complaints oddly fit with the anarchistic themes on tap.

An entertaining indie arcade brawler with a lot of exciting, wildly different ideas woven throughout its gritty presentation, Charlie Murder stands out from its brethren in mostly the right ways. Some elements are more successful than others, but the entertaining co-op mayhem that plays out across this postapocalyptic punker landscape will spur you to alternate between throwing devil horns, cursing, and laughing out loud.

The Good
Great art style and gritty punk aesthetic
Chaotic combat hits a high note with its absurdity
Great co-op experience
The Bad
Checkpoint system is unforgiving
A few minigame elements feel tacked on
7.5
Good
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50 comments
ILuvGameSpot123
ILuvGameSpot123

Well that's strange, I just have the feeling I've seen this game before, back in February or something... Well, whatever, it looks like a fun little game and I might even pick it... Oh wait. XBLA exclusive. Ugh

ArbitraryEntry
ArbitraryEntry

the demo was ok. hopefully the turtles game is better

tightwad34
tightwad34

LOL. Charlie Murder sound like it should be the name of some sort of badass punk band or something like that.

DinoBuster
DinoBuster

It's an obvious comparison since both games are beat em' ups about bands, but am finding myself liking the gameplay more in this game than the Scott Pilgrim game. Getting better equips ala Diablo style adds a lot to it.

I was more impressed with the traditional animation in Scott Pilgrim, but like a few others mentioned, the flash work is really well done, and the sloppy  minimalistic art style really works with the punk rock/demons from hell concept.

Soundtrack is pretty rad as well.

AnarchyPony
AnarchyPony

Ridiculous! There aren't any fat people in punk bands, besides NOFX.

Chaos_Dante_456
Chaos_Dante_456

Kind of reminds me of the Dishwasher's art style. That was a fun game

Chaos_Dante_456
Chaos_Dante_456

Thought it said Charlie Murphy at first. I was gonna be happy for him getting his own game?

slavagen
slavagen

If it's Zombie Smashers successor I'm deeply in.

obsequies
obsequies

the flash art style is well done. It doesn't look cheap or generic even though it seems like it should. 

xsnrgman
xsnrgman

F*ck playing the game. How is the music in it?

uglypinkmoose
uglypinkmoose

The screenshots must not do the art style justice 

KoRniTo
KoRniTo

Seems cool just like Castle Crashers, I'm in!

Zombie8814
Zombie8814

Unforgiving checkpoint system. All I need to know. 


Thank you, gamespot.

Hiddai
Hiddai

M$ can't make it perfect...

ChiefFreeman
ChiefFreeman

kinda looks like a more twisted Castle Crashers

odolwa99
odolwa99

Imagine there's no ranking, it's easy if you try.  No low scores for TLOU, above us only 9's.  Imagine all the gamers living for todaaayyy... WOO HOO!!!

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.  I hope some day you'll re-sub to GS, and the forums will be as one!!

Zacmaccraken
Zacmaccraken

I hate the  graphic style, It's a real illustator nightmare!!! Those graphics are in the likes of a seven year old kid who doesn't know how to draw at all!!! I hate this piece of crap!!!

SirMD
SirMD

And now begins the age of the 7.5 

blast880
blast880

so many co-op games lately and i dont have cash to spare! f*ck me...

SteamRule
SteamRule

So this is almost as good as TLOU ! WTF GameSpot

RicanV
RicanV moderator

This game is almost as good as the Last of Us.

Oozyrat
Oozyrat

I'm just glad it wasn't another 8. It's as close as it can get though. Seems like GS reviews are pretty much "let's play it safe for fans and advertisers. We can't say it's higher than this because they'll hate us, and if we say it's too bad they'll hate us."

xsnrgman
xsnrgman

@AnarchyPony There are a few actually. I noticed a member of DOA at a live show that was fat. Also, the lead singer of The Dicks is a fat man.

Ultraspank
Ultraspank

@Zombie8814 Honestly, if you're dying in this game over and over you deserve to be punished. It's challenging but not overly difficult especially since you can buy and find healing items.

tsyder
tsyder

@Zombie8814  It's really not that bad esp. if youre playing coop.  It's a spiritual successor to castle crashers!!!

Ultraspank
Ultraspank

@Hiddai It's made by Ska Studios, not M$. Microsoft only published it solely because they do not allow self publishing on Xbox360.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@odolwa99 All you need is hate... all you need is hate... all you need is hate, hate. Hate is all you need (to produce more than 1000 comments for an article).

DinoBuster
DinoBuster

@Zacmaccraken First, art is subjective dude. The artwork is indeed minimalistic and lacking detail, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work with the game. The art in Castle Crashers is very much the same, but perhaps you feel the same way about that, I dunno. Maybe you can get your rocks off with Dragon's Crown then. Pretty much the same kind of game.

G4m3r0uTL4wZ
G4m3r0uTL4wZ

@SirMD And thus began the age of 7.5..but soon the flames will fade and only dark will remain. Even now there are only embers and man sees not light,but only endless nights. And amongst the living are seen,carriers of the accursed dark sign. The Last of Us praisers who believe 8.0 is not enough high.

Warlord_Irochi
Warlord_Irochi

@SteamRule You people are obsessed with numbers. I can imagine a number on a website must ruing your enjoyement of a game quite seriously.

PS2fweak
PS2fweak

@SteamRule You should keep those scores in context. You wouldn't compare the games, so why would you compare the scores the games received? 

That's like if somebody was eating an apple and an orange, and they said the apple was just okay, but the orange was perfect. It wouldn't make sense to get upset with that person because you think apples are better than oranges. You compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. 

GS thinks The Last of Us is a Great "The Last of Us" type game and Charlie Murder is a Good "Charlie Murder" type game. 

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@SteamRule Do you seriously *still* not know how the rating system works on GameSpot?  Come on, it's getting embarrassing.

RicanV
RicanV moderator

@SteamRule Lot of racism I made the same comment directly underneath and no likes. *played the race card*

Warlord_Irochi
Warlord_Irochi

@RicanV Personal reviews (as indicated in the website) + totally different game bugdet, price and genre.
Is it so hard to understand?

SoNin360
SoNin360

@Oozyrat No, I don't think they factor in either of those things, especially the whiny bitches.

railly
railly

and 9.0... so easily forgotten

Charlie Murder More Info

First Release on Aug 14, 2013
  • Xbox 360
Charlie Murder is a four-player arcade beat ‘em up featuring all four members of the revolutionary punk act.
7.8
Average User RatingOut of 25 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Ska Studios
Published by:
Microsoft Game Studios
Genres:
Beat-'Em-Up, Action
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature
All Platforms