There are certain times of the year when gatherings occur more frequently and the party games are called for to help entertain the guests, with those on PC and console becoming the go-to types these days instead of the classic board kind. If I told you there was a new release that’s taken a little bit of the knockout element of Super Smash Bros. and thrown in a selection of obstacle laden courses like something out of Doritos Crash Course, you’d instantly be reaching for the wallet to purchase Big Crown: Showdown. That’s why it’s so baffling and unfortunate that the ‘party’ experience it actually delivers is mildly disappointing.
Big Crown: Showdown is a party game by trade and looks to cater for up to four players, either locally or online. You must have a minimum of two human participants to get started though, with no bots on hand to fill any spaces, meaning lone-wolves need not apply. That’s fine, because the whole reason you’d even consider such a game is to play alongside or mingle with other folks via online. Whether you’ve got a full party or not, the aim is to reach the end of a course and avoid losing all of your lives, the remainder of which ultimately convert to points. Once someone reaches the set point total across a number of courses, the winner is declared and the game is over. It’s a one tricky pony in that sense as there aren’t any other modes.
In regards a story, there’s not much to go on, with the general idea seeing a group of knights – The Grumblegard – cast out of the Kingdom by an evil wizard who’s stolen the crown. Many years later they try to reclaim the crown by entering the ‘Big Crown Showdown’ and that’s essentially the reason behind the antics. In the grand scheme of things, it has no bearing on proceedings and the sole cutscene used only ends up showing off poor workmanship due to stuttering animation and awful sound quality. It’s not a great way to intro a game, that’s for sure.
Anyway, you’ll play as one of four members of ‘The Grumblegard’ and be tasked with safely navigating the courses ahead – if you’re the host then it’s entirely in your hands as to the order of them and how many you want in the overall rotation. Should someone fall off into the depths below, they lose a life, just as they will if one of the many hazards are stumbled upon. Punching the opposition is a cunning method to send them to a quick demise, especially seeing as you can charge up a more powerful punch too that’s almost guarenteed to knock them far, far away. There’s a risk versus reward element to beating up your opponents because it’s easy to overshoot a charged punch and send yourself to doom.
The control scheme is brilliantly simple with just the jumping, punching and blocking buttons to take into account alongside the movement, ensuring that a small child or an OAP can grasp how to play no problem. Thus a balance is created so that gamers can easily be knocked off their perch by their granny or a less skilled buddy in the blink of an eye. That’s only if you are able to keep them interested though…
On paper, it’s good to see that there are a whopping 15 different courses to battle it out upon, with three differing themes present to add some potential variety. There’s the industrial Kasseltoon, full of dangerous machinery, blazing fires and steam; the more exotic Zoggysands, with its streams whisking you towards danger and stone based constructs ready to crush your little knight; and the cold as ice Shivershire, looking to put the freeze on your chances of succeeding using hefty snowballs and crumbling ice. Whilst each theme does enough to add diversity and has decent designs, the courses within them are so short – less than a minute per course on average – that none could really be considered memorable and therefore any repetition is dull.
Throughout the courses, coins can be garnered from chests and these are required to purchase new helmets for the knights in the Swag shop. These are purely aesthetic though and not really worth bothering about, given that the variety is a little bit in short supply. Instead, it would’ve been better to see extra characters or even unlockable themes to breathe freshness into proceedings.
Whilst options are in place to change a few of the settings that effectively shorten or lengthen a game, not a lot can be done to increase the excitement and change-up the overall gameplay. To add to the rather swift onset of boredom, it’s often difficult to keep track of your own character on the shared screen amid the chaos. I also have issue with the isometric camera viewpoint moving at its own pace along the course, due to the fact that even on the fastest speed, a player can still get ahead of the camera and this basically forces them to retreat, which is just a bit odd and kills the momentum a tad.
On a positive note, most of the action is fluid and the controls are very responsive; a necessity when required to hurdle and avoid numerous obstacles. Sometimes it’s a little confusing to see the likes of a swinging axe catch you, despite seemingly escaping its range, but the majority of the time everything goes smoothly.
That is a sentiment that cannot be attested to the online portion of Big Crown: Showdown, which is desperately in need of a player base. Nobody is hosting games to join, the ones I host get no takers and the quick play option has you waiting in a lobby for ages. I haven’t found a single person as of yet, despite a ton of attempts and that’s a real shame, but unsurprising for the indie scene and this lacklustre game especially.
Big Crown: Showdown has an overall idea that could provide a really enjoyable, exciting game to entertain the masses. With plenty of courses at hand, tons of hazards to evade, and a level of accessibility that allows gamers of all abilities to get involved, there’s certainly potential here. Sadly, the courses grow tiresome after only a couple of plays, given their short length, and so you’ll struggle to convince people to come back to it. Throw in the lack of other modes present, the dead online component and the other issues outlined, and it’s difficult to recommend even at just under a tenner in price.
There are better brawlers and party games on Xbox One, therefore I’d hold off from purchasing Big Crown: Showdown unless it hits a sale. Then it’s a maybe, at a push!