Title: Charlie Murder
Systems: Xbox 360
Release Date: August 14, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Microsoft Game Studios (Ska Studios)
ESRB Rating: “M” for Mature
Charlie Murder is about a falling out between friends, Charlie and his best buddy Paul. After the latter leaves the group, they go on to worldwide fame and riches. Paul is still performing his bad songs at coffee house open mics and stewing with hatred. Fed up with his life, Paul sells his soul to dark forces and becomes Lord Mortimer, the front man of the band Gore Quaffer. Not content with topping the charts and making dark music, he sets out to kill Charlie and apparently bring about the apocalypse. I think the same stuff happened when Bobby Brown left New Edition. Just another week in the music biz, really.
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Everything Is a Weapon
Lucky for the people of Earth the members of Charlie Murder aren’t just punk rockers, but gifted fighters. The band members fall into the common archetypes such as tank, berzerker and mage, each possessing a weak and strong attack. That’s only the beginning of the ways they can unleash carnage, however. In addition to fisticuffs, they can build up a magic “Anar-Chi” ability to attack enemies, buff themselves and cause other effects. They can equip items from fallen foes including guns, swords or the body parts of the defeated. One of my favorite things to do is hurl a dead zombie’s brain at another zombie. I don’t know how much damage that does, but it’s just fun to do.
The RPG-style system allows you to upgrade your character and earn moves such as a useful and graphically bloody curb stomp on downed enemies. Another skill is dual-wielding bladed weapons for the samurai warrior in us all. There are plenty of environmental hazards that you’ll need to use against opponents while not getting clocked yourself. Exploding barrels, cars, electrical generators and the like help fill out the stages. If you get taken out by a difficult group of enemies, it’s worth looking around to see if there was something else you could have thrown one of them into.
One tip I can give you is to always be throwing something. Projectiles are your best friends when surrounded. Charlie Murder makes sure you are, constantly. You’ll need the breathing room. Plus in Ska Studios’ fine tradition, there are some gory kills as swords cleave demons and other baddies in half. The characters from Kill Bill would feel right at home, as would previous Ska hero The Dishwasher.
One of the differences between Charlie Murder and other co-op brawlers is the sheer amount of customization available for characters. In a nice nod to punk rock culture, you can get tattoos to enhance your superpowers and fighting skills. There’s a wide variety of clothes you can pick up from enemies to increase stats too. Foes occasionally drop beer crafting ingredients, which you can use to make your own concoctions at in-game breweries. In addition to being punk rock legends, the band mates are drunken kung fu masters as well. I knew I should have practiced my guitar lessons more.
Characters keep their cellphone handy and are able to earn in-game items by scanning QR codes hidden around the world. Your phone upgrades your fighter and allows you to check a social media feed. The more monsters you slay, the higher your level of fame goes. Don’t tell Lord Mortimer, he gets jealous really easily. There’s so much stuff to buy, craft and equip it’s impossible to do on a single playthrough.
I’ve got to warn everybody the checkpoints in Charlie Murder can pretty unforgiving. Combine that with an autosave system that isn’t the clearest about when it’s autosaving and frustration is going to happen. That’s one of the many reasons this experience is best taken in with three friends. Co-op partners can revive you. The different classes are important to take into account as well. Hey, four people against a million zombies, ninjas and witches are still outnumbered, but less so than one person.
Taking into account the co-op play, the huge amount of collectibles and the bloody thrills of dismembering legions of progressively bizarre enemies, Charlie Murder is a bargain at its $10 price. The Ninja Turtles and a remake of Flashback will get most of the headlines this Summer of Arcade, but don’t let this band of punk rockers play to an empty house.