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Charlie Murder Is A Great Name

And, assuming that Ska Studios' upcoming brawler holds up, it could be a great game, as well.

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I know I've said that the classic side-scrolling brawler is effectively dead, or at least that it can only exist as a deliberately retro-styled genre. But I'm realizing that smaller teams of creative people seem to have found a way to make Final Fight-like games live on by giving them unique looks that you just don't see much of these days. Castle Crashers did it quite well, and the upcoming game from Ska Studios, Charlie Murder, looks like it's definitely got the right idea, too.

Charlie Murder is a four-player brawler starring the members of a fictitious punk band called... Charlie Murder. Oh, hey, the front man's name is also Charlie Murder, and he's backed by Lester Deth on guitar, Tommy Homicide on bass, and The Rexecutioner on drums. The story behind the game is that Charlie's girlfriend--Skelekitten--has been taken by a rival metal band. So you'll have to beat up a bunch of dudes with crowbars and unleash special attacks to save the day.

The action doesn't seem to stray too far from the classic brawlers of the '80s and '90s. You can jump and attack, you can wield a variety of weapons, and you each have a special move that'll get you out of a bind by knocking down a group of enemies. These powers are based around each character's instrument of choice, so Charlie blasts his enemies with sonic waves from his singing, while the drummer makes a drum kit materialize and pounds nearby foes into submission, and so on. If you're playing multiplayer, you can pop those specials off simultaneously. I was left with the impression that doing so made the attacks more effective. The demo being shown at PAX East also contained a vehicle level, where players toss junk at motorcycle-riding bad guys. It looked like it could make for a neat diversion, similar to the motorcycle level in Renegade.

While it has the standard brawler feel, the game's art style is what makes Charlie Murder stand out. The game's sketched-out characters look pretty nice in motion and the enemies, some of which come packed with crowbars and knives, look like guys you'd want to really beat up... like zombies, or perhaps ninjas.

Look for Charlie Murder soon in the Xbox Live Indie Games section.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+