Review: BattleBlock Theater
Cats and blocks everywhere.
- Worth The Time?Definitely.
- Things LovedThe extremely good humour, the level designs are fantastic, the artwork is top notch, extremely fun to play with a friend, very addictive and satisfying, platforming is great, the narrator is a work of comedic genius, lots of customization options, the quirkiness is charming, level creator is great, excellent soundtrack, massive amount of content.
- Things HatedSome ranking problems. That's pretty much it.
- RecommendationIf you are in any shape or form a fan of platformers, then this game is an essential buy. If you are just looking for some quirky humour and a good time then go buy it now.
- Name: BattleBlock Theater
- Genre: Platforming
- Players: 1-4 local and online
- Multiplayer: Yes
- Platforms: Xbox Live Arcade
- Developer: The Behemoth
- Publisher: Microsoft Studios
- Price: 1200 MSP
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
The Behemoth is a game company that many gamers love. At first they brought us Alien Hominid, a side-scrolling shooting game that was immensely hard, but was loved by many. Then they gave us the absolutely amazing Castle Crashers that just blew down all the doors and won the hearts of millions of people. Castle Crashers is one of the best games available on the arcade market and one that gave Behemoth millions of fans and universal praise. To say that BattleBlock Theater had a lot to live up to is the understatement of the year. It has to really bring the thunder to live up to its pedigree. And it did. Beautifully at that.
The first thing I absolutely have to mention is the narrator. He’s a cross between an English gentleman and an American comedian. He follows you throughout the entire game, narrating the story and makes snarky remarks whenever you mess up or start a level. What’s noticeable about him is that he is absolutely gut-burstingly hilarious. When I watched the very first cutscene I had to pause the game because I was laughing too much. The humour scores extremely high on the quirky meter and some of the things said just make you go “what the hell” before laughing profusely. So many things have made me laugh out loud that it’s amazing.
The story is a testament to quirkiness. You are on a boat (yeah, I also broke out into song) with a whole bunch of your friends and your “friendship leader”, Hatty. A massive storm hits and washes you and your friends onto an island that has been inhabited by orange cats. They imprison you and use you as a form of entertainment in sadistic arenas that are designed to kill you. Hatty also gets enslaved by a magical, you guessed it, hat and is seen as being obedient to the cats. The story moves along with the use of cutscenes that are basically paper cutouts on sticks. The scenes are very well animated and the hilarious narrator is just the cherry on top. You will have this driving force on every act to finish it and experience the next hilarious cutscene.
BattleBlock is at its core a platformer with most of the platformer elements at play. Jumping, double jumping, using various tools to cross obstacles and so forth. Every level consists of blocks with their own unique properties. You get normal blocks that you walk around as normal, exploding blocks that explode when you touch them, spike blocks that impale you, cloud blocks that you can only jump on when you’re below them and much more. The arrangement of these blocks is what constitutes a level. You also get other mechanics that get introduced such as paper boats that can be used to traverse water and single use items such as wings and jetpacks to be used to reach higher ground.
There are also enemies in the shape of cats that you can destroy and even exploit. They use and arrangement of weapons and are determined to take you down no matter what. They can sit in pesky locations that you cannot reach and throw obstacles at you or they try to push you into environmental hazards. You can also buy all the weapons they use to use against them. All these elements combined makes for one intense platforming experience. The first few levels might be easy, but they really rack up the difficulty on later stages, making harder, more extreme levels that will thoroughly test your platforming abilities.
The game plays out in acts (like a theater, obviously) that consist of about 9 chapters in total and a final timed “boss” level that you have to pass as quickly as possible. In order to progress, you need to collect green gems that are scattered all over the levels. You only need 3 gems to open the exit and progress to the next chapter, but there are upwards of 7 gems that you can collect per chapter as well as a secret item in the shape of a ball of yarn. While you only have to collect a fraction of the gems to progress, you will feel compelled to collect as many as you possibly can. You can use these gems to “free prisoners” from a containment unit, but it’s just for buying new head shapes that you can use. Some of these head shapes are borderline hilarious and it’s so worth it to buy as much as possible. Yarn buys you weapons, but after a short while the weapons available run dry and you can’t spend yarn on anything else, but this is solved by trading with other players that need yarn for other things.
Each act gives you a rank based on how you did with regards to gems collected, yarn collected and a time bonus. If you achieve all three perfectly you get an A++ rank that gives you 2 extra gems. A nice incentive to play as good as you possibly could. What annoyed me was that they don’t give you the time target that you have to aim for which makes it hard to actually gauge how well you are doing. Most of the time I only received A ranks after collecting everything, but missing the time bonus because I did not know what I was aiming for. A minor annoyance, however, and after playing a chapter once, you can easily breeze through it and get the time bonus.
The visuals are very reminiscent of Behemoth’s previous titles and they still have their established charm and quirkiness about them. The game is a visual treat of cartoony violence and paper cutout cinematics. The blocks and levels are also very well designed and have many visual features incorporated into them to give them a unique feel.
The soundtrack is about as quirky as the game itself, but it fits extremely well as a backdrop to these insane levels. It will just put you in a happy mood and make you smile when you hear it. Some of the background music sounds like that Trolol song we know so well and others are very techno rich. Sometimes the narrator even does a little acapella. An extremely well done soundtrack that just ticks all the boxes.
The game offers a co-op mode which you can play with a friend. The levels are remastered into arenas where you have to use teamwork to progress. New mechanics get introduces such as throwing your partner and pulling them up from high places. Things get a little strange if you don’t have a stable connection, but that might just be my terrible internet line. It did make for some entertaining accidents and both my co-op partner and myself were laughing our brains out at some of the things that happened on screen. You can also be sadistic towards your buddy and throw them into hazards and generally be extremely mean, but that’s dependent on how much you hate each other. It makes for a very entertaining experience and I thoroughly recommend it to anybody that loves co-op games.
I could not experience the multiplayer thanks to my horrible internet connection, but there are a multitude of modes available to play with other people. These range from simple challenges to quirky mini-games. I wish I could have experienced it, but alas. There’s also a level creator that you can utilize that gives you everything that is available in the game to construct your own insane levels. It’s very thorough and easy to use so it’s a great tool for all the creative types out there. You can upload your created levels for other people to play and also download levels that you can play yourself. They range from incredibly challenging to just downright silly.
BattleBlock Theater is a game that just does everything right. The story and characters are absolutely hilarious and the platforming mechanics are very well implemented. It’s a game that will have you addicted and playing for hours without even realising you’re doing it. Go buy the game if you’re looking for an amazing arcade experience.