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Battleblock Theater Review

The recent resurgence in platform games has been well received, with a solid group of games that return to home gaming's roots. Mario is still jumping on heads and Rayman is also back, though for a long time this style of game was relegated to the digital downloads or PC, with smaller, home grown efforts giving us our jumping fix. The Xbox Live Arcade has always been a safe place to release these smaller games, with some design houses making their own mark on the gaming world, one such is The Behemoth, becoming one of those developers that Xbox 360 fans can be proud of. With the team covering side scrolling shooters like Alien Hominid and beat em ups with Castle Crashers in their own, very unique style now attempts the platform genre.

Battleblock Theater very quickly sets itself up in The Behemoths signature look, with plenty of sight gags, cute and grotesque characters and the mad ramblings of the narrator keeping the story all together. Our hero, his friend Hatty Hattington and a whole other cast of crew find themselves shipwrecked on a strange island following a fearsome storm at sea. Though at first grateful to find land, all is not well on the island, with everyone being captured and imprisoned by strange race of cats. To make thing worse, your character, a prisoner, is forced into a strange type of reality show created for the pleasure of the cat people, having to progress through a seemingly endless run of rooms, each more deadly than the last, trying to stay alive and get to the end and find out what has happened to all of the other prisoners. To make things worse it seems the cat people have somehow used a mind control top hat on Hatty, making him the director of this matinee of madness.

Like any platform game before it, the controls are dead simple, it's the level design where it all comes together and the nature of the game allows for some truly devastating levels. Best described a LittleBigPlanet style of game but a little bit more simple, with each level created with an assortment of blocks, each with their own properties, regular platforms, ice blocks, fire blocks, sticky blocks, laser blocks, detonating blocks; add to this a huge variety of tricks and traps like water hazards and buzz saws and level specific powerups like angel wings and a jetpack and each level will have you pulling our hair out trying to get the best times and scores.

Though each level is relatively small, they are packed full of hazards, making the level goal of collecting three gems all the more harder. Many of these gems are placed in relatively easy to reach areas, making progression quick, but to get the most of the game you need to start risking it all, negotiating spike traps and gun turrets to gather them all and earn an A++ rank. Along with gems there are also other collectables scattered around, with a golden ball of yarn, a golden top hat that you need to carry back to the exit and even plenty of secret rooms, tucked away, waiting for you to discover them and reap the rewards.

Death does come quite easily to our prisoner and when it does happen, it's grisly, but thanks to well-placed checkpoints, not annoying. To help the prisoner get through all of this he has some very basic melee attacks, though these do little more than knock cat enemies back a little and at times can be a little hard to get right (one of the only problems with the game), plus he has an assortment of combat slides and climbing abilities and can also take one weapon along for the journey, starting with an explosive Frisbee and later purchasing other items like a vacuum cleaner or a fan. In each stage selection area there is a gift shop that you can visit and spend your well sought after goodies, with yarn allowing you to purchase weapons and gems unlocking prisoners that you can then use their likenesses to customise your own character even more.

With a fun and extensive single player adventure mode this would have been enough, but The Behemoth have gone further, adding loads of extras to extend the gameplay. Firstly there is a co-op option, be it local or online, with each level being slightly tweaked to allow some of the more interactive actions like throwing each other across large gaps. As with any co-op game, communication is the key, as wandering off will cause the camera to struggle in keeping you both centred. Of the two, local co-op was more enjoyable, especially since it avoids any troubles with lag, a nightmare on a platform game.

The co-op feel also extends to another whole area of game modes all situated in The Arena, allowing versus mayhem across eight different modes. The rather weak melee attacks are used in full force in the Muckle (beat-em-up), Soul Snatcher and King of the Hill modes, with lots of spamming of the attack button and no real skill involved. Things do get better and a lot more competitive with Color the World, with you running around the level changing blocks to your team colours, Grab the Gold, where you have a golden whale flying around dropping gold for your to collect and put in a safe, Ball Game where you throw footballs into nets, Capture the Horse and finally a series of time challenges.

Finally, to wrap up the game nicely is a well-crafted and easy to use level editor, so just like Hatty, you can create your own theatre of blood, death and destruction and then submit them online, allowing other prisoners the chance to test their skills. As ever there is already a decent selection of levels available, plus The Behemoth have also got the ball roiling with a huge plenty of their own designs to get stuck into, some of which are brutal and seemingly impossible.

The Behemoth have created yet another splendid game, full of signature visuals and humour that make them one of the better developers currently creating for XBLA and Battleblock Theater a must have title for your collection.

Words by Ash Buchanan.
(Version Tested: Xbox 360/XBLA)


- Level creator.
- Fantastic production for an XBLA game.
- Classic platform game action.


- Co-op can get annoying.
- (American spelling)

Edited On 11 Apr, 2013

( 2 )
Johno Muller's avatar
Johno Muller 4 years ago
The Behemoth has released two of my favourite time wasters, Castle Crashers and Super Soviet Missile Master
PrometheusFan's avatar
PrometheusFan 4 years ago
Man, it feels like forever since Castle Crashers came out, but it's good to see a new Behemoth game finally. I'll be checking out the trial as soon as I get a chance and see how it plays.

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