Despite being told otherwise, I’ve always been a little slow to hop on the Behemoth bandwagon. I hadn’t played Alien Hominid until it arrived on Xbox Live Arcade in 2007. I didn’t get into Castle Crashers until 2011. Although I was late to the party, my love for both games is strong, so when I heard that The Behemoth’s long-awaited next title BattleBlock Theatre, had finally been released, I made sure I was ready and waiting for it to drop.
BattleBlock Theater begins as you and a bunch of your best friends — including your ‘bestest’ friend in the whole wide world, Hatty Hattington — pile into a boat and sail off to lands unknown looking for adventure. After sailing and having carefree-fun for several days, a massive storm hits and sends your ship spiralling off course and onto a long-forgotten island. When you come around, your character — which is customisable in regards to colour and head shape — realises that Hatty has gone missing.
As you begin to explore the island, you discover a dilapidated theater and enter, hoping to find Hatty. But as soon as you set foot inside, you realise this is no ordinary theater – in fact, it’s been taken over by hundreds of massive cats with an affinity for fine technological devices, each one wreaking havoc and murder upon unsuspecting travellers that stumble across their nefarious dungeon of doom. For reasons unknown, Hatty has become the man in charge, now sporting a possessed top hat instead of the friendly smile that once adorned his face; I’m going to go out on a limb and guess it has something to do with the possessed hat.
You and your friends must travel through eight worlds full of buzz-saws, laser-beams, spears, spikes and kitties who have a knack for making things blow up, all in the name of bringing Hatty back to his senses and escaping from this macabre death-trap. As you traverse each of BattleBlock‘s nearly 100 levels, you’re required to collect three jewels to unlock the exit. But you can also nab surplus gems to spend on character unlocks, as well as yarn to bribe the death-kittens into giving you better, more powerful weapons.
Those familiar with The Behemoth’s work will immediately recognize their trademark cartoon style and quirky sense of humour. Many of BattleBlock’s laughs come courtesy of its narrator who spews canned, campy one-liners that help give each level the feel of a never-ending game-show parody.
When you dig past the hundreds of collectible heads for your characters – between taking in the hysterical story, trying your hand at level creation, or just blowing up some buddies in multiplayer – almost everyone will find something to love about BattleBlock Theater. Whether played alone or with friends, The Behemoth’s latest is an absolute blast that’s well worth the price of admission. It certainly has to live up to but you’ve got a deliciously punishing, fun platformer to enjoy here. In fact, I was often reminded of Super Meat Boy — both in regards to difficulty and the tight controls. That challenge only gets worse on Insane mode, which features remixed versions of levels packed with even more traps vying to send you to an untimely death.
Unlike some of more diabolical platformers, BattleBlock Theater shines brightest when playing with a friend. I really ought to dedicate this review to my review companion, whose willingness to lie down on a bed of spikes to become a makeshift platform helped make this review possible. This is the only situation where it’s socially acceptable to look a person in the eye and say, “go kill yourself.” While it certainly was a lot of fun playing alone, solving the more co-op oriented puzzles together ensures that smiles will most certainly be plastered on faces for the nearly eight-hour campaign.
There are a couple of downsides to cooperative play, namely the camera and spawning system, meaning that if someone gets too far ahead, the camera pulls out making it difficult for anyone to see what’s happening onscreen. When one character dies, their respawn point seems to be completely random. Sometimes they’ll appear right next to a teammate; other times it’ll be several checkpoints back, forcing everyone to deal with that lovely camera issue again. However, aside from these minor gripes, there’s little else to grumble about.
Then there’s the biggest surprise of BattleBlock Theater: it’s versus options. With nearly a dozen game modes spread between two-on-two competitions and four-on-four contests that pit human players against a team of bots, BattleBlock offers enough variety to keep things fresh for many hours after you’ve finished up the story. From King of the Hill to Capture the Flag, BattleBlock’s take on some classic versus modes, along with a few original to the game, things can definitely get a bit chaotic — in fact, they almost always do. But you’ll likely be having too much fun to care.
All in all, this is The Behemoth’s best game to date. Fans should take solace in knowing the incredibly long wait between titles was well worth it. If you’re a newcomer who feels like it’s finally time to jump on the Behemoth bandwagon, I can’t think of a better game to start with. Between taking in the hysterical story, trying your hand at level creation, or just blowing up some buddies in versus mode, most every gamer will find something to love about BattleBlock Theater.
Audio/Visual – 4/5: Looks fantastic, great sound that just adds that little touch of joy when hearing the sound of you or an enemy dying.
Gameplay – 4/5: Camera and spawning points can be rather frustrating, but other than that the gameplay is great.
Innovation – 4/5: A mash up of Castle Crashers and Super Meat Boy makes this excellent.
Value – 5/5: Really fun story with the narrator causing endless fits of giggles, you’ll keep coming back for more on just the multiplayer alone.
- Kieran reviewed BattleBlock Theatre on Xbox 360 -