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Video Game / Charlie Murder

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The Punk Rock apocalypse is here!

I'm Charlie Murder
and murder is my name!
I'm the king of rock and roll.
I'm stompin' on fortune and fame.
— "Mnemonic Atomic"

Charlie Murder is a Side Scroller Beat 'em Up game from Ska Studios, playing a bit more like the classics that inspired it than their notoriously breakneck Dishwasher series.

Charlie is the lead singer of the titular band, Charlie Murder, a massively popular Punk Rock band. But on his rise to fame, Charlie and the band happened to spurn Charlie's former friend, Paul. Powered by envy and jealously, Paul Bitterman strikes a deal with dark forces, becoming Lord Mortimer, lead singer of the Death Metal band Gore Quaffer. In a short span of weeks, a massive rivalry between the two bands builds up, eventually culminating in Gore Quaffer's bassist Circe Bathory starting a fully blown zombie apocalypse, and the lot of them shortly thereafter beating Charlie Murder within an inch of their collective lives. Charlie and crew narrowly survive, pull themselves together, and set out to set Gore Quaffer straight once and for all.

The gameplay model, referred to as a "BrawlPG" by the developers, plays out as an unusual mix between River City Ransom, Borderlands, Final Fight, and The Simpsons arcade game. Fallen foes drop pocket change which can be used to buy food and clothing. Food and drink provide both healing and permanent stat boosts, while clothing provides a whole host of benefits: torso clothing primarily provides significant defense boosts and elemental resistances, hats strengthen your character's magic power (here referred to as Anarchi), and gloves strengthen your punches and kicks, as well as adding some extremely splashy elemental damage. All of the clothing can also have tangential enchantments that are harder to quantify, such as life-steal, stun chance, or causing stasis on knockback.

Keeping with the RPG theme, each of the five band members of Charlie Murder have their own RPG-styled character class:

  • Charlie Murder, lead singer and Berserker: His unique ability is Dual Wielding and Guns Akimbo, and his spell list can contain a little bit of everything.
  • Tommy Homicide, bassist and Shaman: His unique ability can convert severed enemy heads into healing totems, providing a trickle of health to anyone in the area for each one, and his magic consists of area damage, area damage, and more area damage.
  • Kelly Skitten, AKA Skelekitten, manager, backup vocalist, tambourinist, and Mesmer: Her unique ability is an evade roll, allowing her to pass through any number of attacks, and her spells lean heavily towards crowd control and support magic to a lesser extent.
  • Lester Deth, guitarist and Mage: He can steal souls of critically damaged enemies to reduce his cooldowns, allowing him to spew out spells to no end. His magic is focused towards straight offense and summoning demonic underlings.
  • Rex, AKA The Rexecutioner, drummer and Tank: His unique ability allows him to grab and throw nearly anything. His great size also provides resistance against being grabbed himself. His magic tends to be self-buffs or utility spells.

From June 16 to 30, 2014, the game was made an available for free for Xbox Live Gold members on Xbox Live's "Games with Gold" program.

Tropes in the work include:

  • And Show It to You: One of the band's later abilities. They can tear a heart out of a nearly-dead enemy, and eat it.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Sort of. There's an optional (and slightly hidden) area in the very first stage that needs a certain relic to access, normally meaning backtracking. Beating it unlocks an "alternate band", enabling you to select different versions of each character. These different versions have identical skill lists, but their spells are often dramatically different, sometimes even completely unique. A different set is unlocked for each difficulty.
  • Apathetic Citizens:
    • The bartender in the background of the third song sequence doesn't seem at all concerned with the demons pouring gasoline all over the place, and even less so when they set the place ablaze.
    • The radio station seems to exploit the ongoing rivalry between Charlie Murder and Gore Quaffer to draw listeners in. The people they interview likewise don't seem too concerned about the ongoing Zombie Apocalypse, and the one who is is cut-short (the rest talk about how Charlie Murder are getting egotistical or are Comically Missing the Point).
  • Badass Crew: Charlie Murder. They're a punk rock band with magic powers that fight off a zombie apocalypse. How could that not be badass?
  • Bait-and-Switch: The final level appears at first to be a final Battle of the Bands between Charlie Murder and Gore Quaffer... then Lord Mortimer just knocks the band out, and ends up killing most of his fellow bandmates before fighting Charlie Murder alone.
  • The Big Guy: Rex, the Drummer. A unique spell of his makes him even bigger.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: The rest of the band who aren't Charlie and Kelly. Lester is tall and rail-thin. Tommy is the shorter than everyone except Kelly. Rex is marginally shorter than Lester, but probably has more mass than the rest of the band put together.
  • Blatant Lies: Expert Thurgood's slogan is "I'm not a centipede!" However, on his billboard in-game, he clearly is one.
  • Book Ends:
    • The game starts and ends with Charlie and crew emerging from Hell.
    • For the bad ending; the first and last time we see of Paul (as his normal self) is in Charlie's apartment, and being alone after being abandoned by Charlie and crew.
  • Booze-Based Buff: The beer category has some of the best stat improving items in the game, and has one of the most easily obtainable large healing items...though they normally all make you temporarily drunk, increasing your attack strength, but randomizing which attacks come out regardless of button pressed, and slowing your run and jump speed.
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center: Rex, as revealed in the Good Ending. With a giant smile on his face, and two arm-fulls of kittens.
  • Closet Geek: Tommy. The band met him when he was tinkering with robots, and he gets regular e-mails from an anime streaming site.
  • Combination Attack: Team-up attacks can be used once one player reaches a 20-hit combo. One player "drives", and the other can shoot out their basic projectile spell endlessly for its duration.
  • Coup de Grâce: Critically wounded foes can be finished off with a head-exploding curb stomp if they've been knocked down. Some mini-bosses and bosses need to be dealt with this way, or they'll get back up with a slightly refreshed health bar.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: Played for Laughs in a Poke the Poodle/Parody manner. Gore Quaffer's "IT guy" has a literal pirate ship, complete with crew. The bottom deck filled with computer servers solely dedicated to pirating Charlie Murder albums.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Twin Scenelords are rather grotesque parodies of the tragedy and comedy masks, being large and slender figures with creepy expressions on their faces. One is pale white, and the other is darker in color with red eyes. Unlike any other boss, they are healed if you attack at inappropriate times.
  • Fan Dumb: In-Universe. You can hear both Charlie Murder and Gore Quaffer fans being interviewed by the radio station in the tattoo palor in-between songs, with plenty of Take Thats directed toward certain kinds of examples of this trope.
  • Feed It with Fire: The Twin Scenelords are healed by normal attacks when you attack at the wrong time.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: The game opens with this, as the ground has a reddish tint and spikes protruding with flames burning in the background. It is also the setting for the final level.
  • Forced Transformation: The graffiti on the wall in the bar's bathroom implies that the running potato you encounter throughout the game Was Once a Man before mysteriously being turned into a potato.
  • Giant Space Flea From No Where: Any boss that isn't a part of Gore Quaffer counts, as none of them get any foreshadowing or some kind of explanation for why they're there. This ranges to comedic with the Sasquatch boss and downright disturbing with the Gorged Tumor under the sea.
  • Golden Ending: The good ending in spades. Events include:
    • Charlie Murder getting their careers back on track.
    • Rex happily carrying two armfuls of cats.
    • Tommy and Lester starting a comic book and action figure store.
    • Kelly planning a post-apocalypse benefit concert.
    • Kelly and Charlie getting married.
    • Charlie and Paul burying the hatchet and reviving their friendship.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The game censors the Baffled Homunculus' death (that is, killing itself by falling into a meat grinder) with a black box over the corpse.
  • Happily Married: Charlie and Kelly in the Good Ending.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Circe ends up having this after zapping the band to near death in the final battle, due to having developed feelings for Charlie as she observed him. Disobeying Mortimer's orders to kill them results in him impaling her with his scythe in a blind fit of rage, shortly followed by King Tepe's retaliation for killing his girlfriend leading to the same fate. Beelzabal crushes his contract with Gore Quaffer and leaves Mortimer to fend for himself.
    • Also Paul in the good ending after going through evil villain therapy.
  • "I Am" Song: The game's main theme, "Mnemonic Atomic", serves as this for the band.
    I'm Charlie Murder, and Murder is my name/I'm the king of rock and roll/I'm stomping on fortune and fame
  • Identical Stranger: The Angel of Chaos in his first form looks like the Fallen Engineer from the Dishwasher games
  • Instant Kill: Foes at a quarter health or less will be killed outright by elemental attacks (flash-incinerated by fire, melted into a skeleton by acid, et cetra), and two-handed heavy melee weapons will completely pulverize even elite versions of foes once they've hit half HP.
  • Instrument of Murder: All the band members utilize their instrument to kick ass.
  • Light Is Not Good: The Angel of Chaos is a tall man with pale white skin dressed in a white suit with a mask over his face (at least before he goes One-Winged Angel). He is also behind the events in the game.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: Charlie and Kelly scream into their microphone in order to use their Anarchi.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Smockula and, to a greater degree, the Lord of Chaos is this to Lord Mortimer/Paul.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Countess Circe Bathory and King Tepes were named after Circe from the Odyssey and Countess Elizabeth Bathory in the first case, and Prince Vlad III (the inspiration of Dracula who was also known by King Tepes) in the latter. Beelzebaal is a combination of the Biblical demon Beelzebub and Ba'alberith, the god of Canaan later to be demonized.
    • Paul's last name, Bitterman, perfectly describes him. Even his main theme is simply titled "Bitter" in the soundtrack.
  • Metal Scream: Charlie starts some of the band's songs with this. He and Kelly also utilize it for their Anarchi.
  • Multiple Endings:
  • Mushroom Samba: In the Camp Falconbats side area, Charlie and friends eat random pills that they find lying on a picnic table, causing them to completely trip balls and run through a multicolored psychedelic chalk-outline world, fighting cultists and demons, while wielding an infinite supply of chainsaws/shotguns. (As soon as a chainsaw breaks or a shotgun runs out of ammo and you throw it, you instantly get a new shotgun or chainsaw.) Eventually you fight a bizarre brain monster and the trip ends. You then run back to the beginning of the area to discover that all the cultists you murdered were actually just hippies. The last living hippie screams in terror and tries to run away from you, only to trip and violently impale his head on a branch. Also counts as a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment, as you get no e-mails after finishing the area and it's never mentioned again. Though it is required to get one of Smockula's body parts.
  • New Game Plus: Diablo style. Beat the game and unlock the next difficulty, "Chaos", with enemies and loot appropriately scaled to your formerly endgame self. Beat THAT, and unlock "Total Anarchy". In these later difficulties, most bosses have proportionately much more health as well. Enemies who were formerly complete pushovers may now become complete nightmares to deal with.
  • No Ending: The Bad Ending has the game abruptly stop after Lord Mortimer/Paul is defeated. No ending cutscene, just straight to the credits.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Kelly and Tommy may be short, but they kick just as much ass as the rest of the band.
  • Precision F-Strike: The good ending song gives one:
    And the living/warm their bones/won't retaliate/fuckin' drones
  • Press X to Not Die: Some enemies will latch onto you or pin you to the ground, rendering you helpless while you slowly get gnawed or pounded to death until you mash the right button enough to break free.
  • Product Placement: So what do you use to check your fans and powers? A Windows Phone. Somehow, Microsoft (despite publishing this game) did not ask for that, making this a slight subversion.
  • The Resenter: As the game goes on, it becomes more and more clear that Paul has his reasons for hating Charlie.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Signs of Disrepair: During the second song sequence, Paul is playing at a bar and has a sign up reading "Praying for a sign". After the nearby TV plays one of Charlie's songs, he freaks out and causes a paint can to spill over the sign which now reads "Praying for a sign".
  • Sinister Scythe: Lord Mortimer's weapon.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After Lord Mortimer kills Circe and King Tepes, Beelzebaal points out his contract, and vanishes in a puff of flames.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Kelly for Charlie Murder, Circe Bathory for Gore Quaffer.
  • Spiritual Successor: James Silva considers this game a "true followup" to his Zombie Smashers X series he developed years earlier.
  • Start My Own: After being kicked out of the band, Paul calls upon the dark forces and forms Gore Quaffer under the name Lord Mortimer.
  • Stylistic Suck: Throughout the game, you get mail from Paul- uh, "Lord Mortimer", full of mockery, evil gloating, and really bad spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
  • To Hell and Back: The game begins with Charlie and crew beating up devils in Hell, before being revived by paramedics. In the end, they go to Hell to fight the Angel of Chaos and return victorious.
  • True Final Boss: The final level and the real final boss of the game, the Angel of Chaos, isn't available unless you acquire all of Smockula's pieces and have them equipped before your battle with Lord Mortimer. Otherwise, you won't be able to damage Smockula during the battle, leading to the game's bad ending. Beating the final level will unlock New Game Plus and have a much happier ending.
  • Unfriendly Fire: The enemies attack haphazardly, and said attacks are just as deadly to their own as they are to you. Your crew can indulge in friendly fire too, but only when there are no enemies onscreen and for very minimal damage.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The Bullet Hell Hall band doesn't seem bothered by Charlie Murder fighting zombies, ninjas, and King Tepes right in front of them, and will simply continue their concert as normal.
  • Wham Line: Throughout the game, you get phone messages from "a friend" who makes note of your progress and serves as Mr. Exposition after major events and boss fights. The message before you fight Gore Quaffer simply reads "By the way I am not your friend". Though one could speculate "your friend" is Paul taunting you, the next two messages confirm that it's the Angel of Chaos.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Paul Bitterman has reasons for being, well, bitter. He was suddenly replaced by Lester and kicked out of the band once they made it big, lost his best friend he's known since birth, and the band continued to (unknowingly) sabotage his solo project. All of this causes him to go off the deep end and try to murder Charlie Murder with his own band and uprising a Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Your Head A-Splode: The default finisher to a downed enemy is crushing their head underfoot (strangely, their brain remains intact). Certain minibosses need to be killed this way.
  • Your Soul Is Mine!: Lester's character-specific ability is being able to steal the souls of critically wounded underlings for a small HP boost.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Gore Quaffer starts one in order to take Charlie Murder out. They almost succeed.