“Charlie Murder” is an arcade beat ‘em up created by “The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai” indie developer Ska Studios. It is set in a punk rock apocalypse, where the eponymous hero – Charlie – and his band must battle a group of rival rockers, Gore Quaffer, who inconveniently happen to be practicing sorcerers and necromancers. Skulls will be split and butts will be kicked as you embark on a psychedelic whirlwind of rock-fueled craziness that will take you from urban dystopias to the very bowels of hell. “Charlie Murder” pays homage to the golden age of arcade brawlers. You and up to three friends control Charlie and his motley crew of misfit band members and destroy bad guys, such as demons, zombies and suicide bombing sharks, that appear on screen. The game is definitely challenging, like any good beat ‘em up should be, but unlike old-school arcade games, Ska Studios wanted to ensure the experience never felt cheap. While “Charlie Murder” is difficult, players are always empowered with the tools to overcome any situation if you know how to properly utilize them. Weapons, ranging from dismembered limbs to handguns, can be wielded for extra damage. Environmental attacks are available, like hurling a foe into a telephone pole and electrocuting them. Band members can learn new skills as they level up and combine their powers with team mates to unleash ridiculous moves, such as transforming into a purple, flame-spewing robot. And then there’s the loot system which endows “Charlie Murder” with a level of stat customization normally reserved only for role-playing games. Defeated enemies drop items that can be equipped to alter your character’s appearance and stats. One item might boost your character’s speed and defense, while another might add elemental traits to your attacks. Loot allows you to custom tailor the way you approach combat, and since it’s all randomly generated, you’re encouraged to persistently hunt for better gear that best fits your play style. “Charlie Murder” is robust and ambitious for a game inspired by 1990’s button mashers. Its depth and complexity is all the more noteworthy considering “Charlie Murder” was developed almost entirely by only two people – James and Michelle Silva, the husband and wife duo that makes up all of Ska Studios (along with their two cats). “Charlie Murder” is Ska Studios’ third Xbox 360 title that Microsoft Studios has published, and that partnership has played an important role in the game’s development. For example, as part of the publishing partnership, Microsoft provided Ska Studios with usability reports, play test session data and bug hunters to help improve the user experience and fix glitches. According to James, Microsoft is also full of “Charlie Murder” fans that were happy to test the game in their spare time and share their thoughts. “Near the end of development, we’ve been getting a lot of feedback from Microsoft,” said Michelle. “We’d send them builds, and they’d send us back complicated spreadsheets highlighting areas that could be improved to make the game play better.” “All the feedback is useful,” said James. “After just staring at the game for years, you lose sight of what you’re doing and how it feels as a fresh experience. All that stuff is really important.” “Charlie Murder” launches on Xbox 360 on Aug. 14 for 800 Microsoft Points as part of Xbox’s Summer of Arcade promotion. For more information about “Charlie Murder,” please visit Xbox.com.