GAME NAME: BattleBlock Theater
DEVELOPER(S): The Behemoth
PUBLISHER(S): Microsoft Studios
PLATFORM(S): PC, Xbox 360
GENRE(S): Arcade, Platformer
RELEASE DATE(S): May 15th, 2014
Okay, confession time, I have thoroughly enjoyed most of The Behemoth’s games. Whether it was the tough as nails Alien Hominid or the ridiculous co-operative fun that was Castle Crashers, they’ve always given me reason to play their games from start to end. It was with incredible excitement then that I heard the announcement that their latest game BattleBlock Theater would be making the jump over from the 360, along with Steam Workshop support. And having played it, I was not disappointed.
The first thing you will notice when starting up is just how outright charming this game is. Don’t get me wrong, Alien Hominid revelled in its dark lunacy and Castle Crashers was an exercise in insanity, but no other game had me laughing from start to finis like this. Part of the charm comes in just how broadly appealing the experience is – whether it’s the ridiculous narration of the talented Will Stamper, the coy and clever innuendo or the use of a dedicated fart button (not as crude as it sounds) BattleBlock is painted in broad, masterful and appealing strokes. After your friend ship (get it?) capsizes, you and all your buds are marooned on a island of rather evil cats. After locking you up and turning your best bud against you with an evil hat (yes really) you are forced to “act” in the name of the felines amusement, jumping your way through over 80 acts all in the name of “theatre”. If ever there was a cuter bunch of malevolent evildoers, I have never encountered them and the details and level of character that they and indeed all the characters embody is quite phenomenal.
Mechanically, it really is for all intents and purposes a standard platformer. Mechanics are introduced that help and hinder, it really gets quite hard later into the games later levels and every now and again you will come across a boss level which switches things up. While somewhat formulaic, it is also incredibly well executed, the characters control tightly, the levels are very well designed and generally everything feels responsive. It’s also highly replayable, raising it into the upper echelons and the likes of Super Meat Boy and Spelunky as you race to beat your time, find more hidden gems or even a well hidden ball of yarn (for your feline captors, duh!) The compulsion to just get a lowly “A” ranking for all the levels has already led to a late night and the idea of unlocking all of the characters and weapons is outright daunting.
That said, there are a few minor gripes that I did have. Firstly, the combat element generally seems a bit wasteful, especially when first starting off the ability to throw mines and grenades at enemies seems a bit pointless as the frantic pace of the game generally has you race right part them. When you do eventually have to confront them, the mechanics aren’t as tight as they could be which often lead to me frustratingly killing myself. There were also a few technical hiccups I experienced, including some graphical glitches and particularly sound syncing which I had no problem with on the consoles.
While obviously built for a controller, I actually fell back to using the standard keyboard layout, which has clearly had a lot of thought put into it and as a result is entirely serviceable. Of course, the other benefits of the PC version include being able to turn the graphics and resolution way up in order to truly appreciate the beautiful artstyle. The integration of the Steam Workshop is kind of what you expect; and while most of the content currently isn’t the best, the cream generally floats to the top and there’s already a plethora of extra content to extend the games already quite substantial longevity. Perhaps the nicest surprise of all is the fact that nothing has been compromised in this PC-port, including same screen co-op and the entire multiplayer suite.
Having taken everything into consideration, this version of BattleBlock Theater is, indeed, the definitive one. While it’s not quite at the same level of platformer like Super Meat Boy, it’s charm and massive amount of content will melt even the iciest of hearts. I genuinely can’t wait to jump back into it’s wonderful world and really you shouldn’t hesitate in doing so either.