Castle Crashers (Xbox 360)
While Jonathan Blow’s Braid scooped most of the year’s industry awards, it was actually a nother Xbox Live Arcade game that won our hearts. We’re talking, of course, about Castle Crashers. With its cutesy wee graphics and trite storyline, Castle Crashers didn’t look like much at first glance — especially to hardcore gamers. But get four mates together (preferably with some beers) and the 2-D side-scrolling action swiftly became hugely addictive.
The game plays out like a super-deformed version of Golden Axe, with your quartet of knights hacking their way through an endless onslaught of barbarians and evil-doers. The juxtaposition of cartoony graphics and brutal dismemberment was certainly worth a giggle, especially for fans of Happy Tree Friends. The game is also surprisingly deep, with the ability to tweak character attributes and gain experience points adding a dash of RPG strategy to proceedings.
While Castle Crashers isn’t exactly ‘underrated’ (it has averaged 82 per cent on Gamerankings.com), we feel it was worth including due to the thunder-stealing existence of Braid. If you only buy one XBLA game this Christmas, make it this one.