BattleBlock Theater – What We Think:
BattleBlock Theater is an absurd game wherein evil cats, exploding frogs, and sadism – oh the sadism – all mix together with some healthy lowbrow comedy. It’s a 2D platformer filled with personality and charm, which is something you’d expect from The Behemoth given their past pedigree with games like Alien Hominid and XBLA indie monster hit Castle Crashers. With a deep focus on multiplayer, BattleBlock Theater aims to create yet another entertaining social experience.
The Cats ‘N The Hat
Marooned on a mysterious island ruled by cats, you and your shipwrecked voyagers are taken prisoner and forced to partake in theater shows to entertain the island’s inhabitants. You soon learn that your fellow shipmate, Hatty Hattington, has taken over by an evil hat. The cats now do what Hatty says. The game, needless to say, never takes itself too seriously and it embraces its silliness wholeheartedly.
As you play through the main story mode, you will slowly learn more about the island and how it came to be via cutscenes, that are awarded after every chapter. These animated scenes prioritize comedy over story. They can take a while before they become informative, but they are entertaining nonetheless, and further highlight the game’s presentation, which is BattleBlock Theater’s strongest aspect.
Almost every spoken word you hear in the game is done by a nameless narrator. He is entertaining for the most part and does a fantastic job of carrying the game to its levels of absurdity. He will chime in during gameplay and react to your deaths or triumphs. He will narrate cutscenes in a frantic, comedic fashion. The writing, from top to bottom (ooh pun incoming) will be best appreciated by those with an inclination towards poop jokes.
Have To Be Scene To Be Believed
The main story modes have you platforming through linear 2D levels, which are known as “Scenes” in the game. Your main goal in each Scene is to collect as many gems as possible before you find the exit. Levels are small and don’t take longer than a couple of minutes. They will contain many traps and enemies to help make things more difficult.
Besides the gems, each level has a hidden ball of yarn you can pick up. At the end of each Scene, you are scored based on how many collectibles you have picked up and how fast you completed the level. Acquiring good scores can get you extra gems.
Gems are used to unlock more character templates, which you can use to customize your character by making it a certain color or changing its hairstyle. Balls of yarn are used to unlock special abilities such as a throwable ball or grenades. These special abilities can be used in the story mode Scenes, but are ultimately unlocked for use in multiplayer games.
An Ob-Scene Amount
The game features 7 chapters with 9 mandatory Scenes in each. Since the scenes are short and feel most similar, they don’t stick out much. Truly, they are similar enough that at times I questioned why there were so many levels at all. You’ll play through at least thirty Scenes before they become truly challenging, and when they do, the game starts to feel like Super Meat Boy. By that point, I was already getting tired of the single player experience. The game starts to take a different shape and makes the reward of a story cutscene less of an incentive and more of a daunting grind.
Playing the story missions cooperatively made the single player more enjoyable and featured slightly different obstacles which forces you to work together. It’s great that levels changed, but it doesn’t change them drastically or enough to make them more interesting.
You can potentially build levels you find more interesting by using the game’s great level maker. It certainly helps bump up the game’s replayability and flex your creative muscles but, note that it’s template based, so don’t expect to create something drastically different. The catalog of tools available, however, is quite vast.
The game features a plethora of multiplayer modes with the ability for 2-player couch co-op or 4-player online co-op. Games range from getting a ball into a basket to team deathmatch. The game’s multiplayer modes offer a nice assortment of play styles and, for the most part they are quite fun, however, the majority of available online games you’ll find at the moment are a form of team deathmatch, which shines a light on one of the weaker aspects of Battleblock Theater.
Besides platforming, the game offers a provisional combat system. In single player levels, you’ll encounter enemies and you have the option to attack them, but the combat is so unsatisfying that you avoid pressing the melee button altogether. This could be by design, to deter you from fighting enemies in a level, but the emphasis on combat in the other multiplayer modes says otherwise. The melee combat is one of the weakest aspects and it’s a shame that the game’s online community constantly plays team deathmatch.
BattleBlock Theater contains that signature Behemoth paper-cutout art style. It’s slightly macabre but often times cute and whimsical. Comically animated characters coupled with the game’s great audio production gives the game a great feel. I would often smile at a funny animation or enemy I encountered. The game’s humor made it a more enjoyable experience overall and it wouldn’t be the same without it.
Good Show! Good Show!
Battleblock Theater is a solid 2D platformer that’s ultimately a more enjoyable game if you plan to play it with friends. Its single player mode and combat leaves a lot to be desired, while its multiplayer offers some fun diversions. It’s a game that oozes with personality and charm and fans of Behemoth’s prior games should find it wickedly entertaining.