Charlie Murder
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2013-08-19 Xbox 360 Arcade T (Teen) Ska Studios / Microsoft

Good old arcade side-scrolling beat-em-ups... I played my share, and I have the fondest memories of Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, Guardian Heroes and The Simpsons as I played them in arcades. They were fun and challenging either alone or with a friend. Charlie Murder brings back what made these games so great, and even if I had little clue as to what I was doing once I started, I still didn't put the controller down for a few hours.

I'm not exactly sure what the story is here, but it seems a former member of the band has been replaced and is out to get revenge. In the meantime, the zombie apocalypse is going on. That's about all I gathered.

The gameplay is your standard left to right progression, while mashing buttons to beat up whatever appears in your way, which is pretty much a metric (bleep)ton of zombies. There are plenty of weapons to pick up as you go along. Well, not just weapons, but the game takes a hint from Dead Rising and lets you grab and throw just about anything, including limbs from defeated zombies, vehicles, furniture and so on.

While you basically get thrown into the action with little clue except for indicators that occasionally pop on screen telling to press this or that button, the mechanics kick in eventually after some exploring.

Your character has a cell phone that offers plenty of messages offering hints regarding skills, attributes, equipment and QR code scanning. That's right, you can use the phone to snap photos of certain items and codes to instantly get them in your inventory.

As for the rest, it basically falls under RPG rules. Kill enemies and destroy things to earn experience, money and occasional equipment. Equip clothing and accessories to improve your stats. Increase your stats by distributing points when you level up among Attack, Defense, Anar-chi (your spells, of sorts) and Speed. You can find a number of stores and vending machines where you can purchase or sell items, and tattooists ready to ink you so you can gain some cool Anar-chi powers.

Some stages offer a breather from the beat-em-up mechanics. A rhythm game where you press buttons as they reach a certain spot (like Guitar Hero with ABXY), driving stages, broomstick flying stages and even some mini-games here and there help break up the pace and keep the game fresh.

The punk rock soundtrack is fantastic, does not get repetitive and fits the game perfectly, but I'll be damned if I can understand a word the characters say or sing... but that's part of its charm. The next best thing in Charlie Murder is the ability to play with up to three other friends. It's so much more chaotic and fun with more people, assuming everyone is working together and there are no stragglers holding the rest back.

On the downside, the saving system is lacking. To be honest, I don't get it. What you think could be a checkpoint actually isn't, so it's difficult to judge when exactly your game is being saved. And when you die, don't be surprised to find yourself several stages back. At least you can speed run and dodge enemies, and any bosses that you have beaten in between will be gone for the second run-through, but still... what the hell? Worst autosave EVER!

With five classes, plenty of weapons and equipment to customize your gameplay, and insanely good music, Charlie Murder is undoubtedly a unique game that offers more depth than one would expect from a beat-em-up. Just be aware that if you die, you may be in for some anger management.