GAME NAME: Battleblock Theater
DEVELOPER(S): The Behemoth
PUBLISHER(S): Microsoft Game Studios
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360
RELEASE DATE(S): April 3rd
A theater full of death traps where prisoners are forced to perform in front of an audience of sadistic cats with death being the only form of freedom sounds like pretty normal run-of-the-mill stuff. That’s what awaits you in Battleblock Theater, an XBLA puzzle game that was developed by Castle Crashers developer The Behemoth. The story mode sees you and your friends shipwrecked after your boat the SS Friend Ship runs aground on a mysterious island after a terrible storm. The leader of your group is a dapper character by the name of Hatty Hattington who is, believe it or not, a great lover of hats.
Hatty Hattington is kidnapped by the locals of the island (who are a group of deranged cats). After Hattington’s hat is replaced with a red glowing hat (because everyone knows red glowing things are evil) he turns against you and your friends and throws you into the cat’s prison. You are then forced into the Theater to perform for Hattington and the cat’s amusement, and so the real strange stuff begins.
The theater is made up of different levels, each with increasingly harder puzzles and more things to kill you. Level by level you have to figure out how to get your hands on collectible green gems and balls of twine as these are used to purchase upgrades. The green gems will let you purchase new heads and facial expressions for your character, a very similar system to what you have seen in Little Big Planet but not as in-depth. The balls of twine let you purchase weapons like grenades and exploding Frisbees, which you will need to help you defeat the cats.
The cats will do anything in their power to kill you, from shoving you into a puddle of deadly water to blasting you with green blob guns. The AI behind these felines is brutal and you will be surprised how many ways they find to kill you and just how often they will succeed in doing so. This adds another challenging element to the already deadly platforming you will have to do while avoiding laser beams and death spikes. There are loads of secret areas to try and find and even bonus levels that pay tribute to the bonus levels from arcade gaming days. The music in the game is fantastic with lots of retro 8-bit sound effects thrown into the mix but the real treat is the voice work.
It sounds like there was one guy (who sounds like he might be insane) that did most of the voice and narration work. The man is simply hilarious; the cut scenes are some of the funniest I have seen with the crazy narrator guy improvising his way through the dialog. I could watch an entire TV show just made up of the cut scenes over and over and never get bored. They act as a good incentive to keep playing but you won’t need incentive once you realize just how addictive the gameplay is.
If I had to compare it to other games I would so it’s a combination of Super Meat Boy, Super Smash Brothers and Little Big Planet. The reason for the Super Smash Brothers feel to it is due to the arena modes, all eight of them. There is the traditional deathmatch mode that has players beating each other senseless, then there are some crazy modes like Horse that have you riding a horse and racing it to a stable. There is also Ball Game which is like a crazy game of basketball that has you trying to score points. All of this can be played with 4 players in split-screen and online.
Once you hit cyberspace there are also user created levels to take on in Arena mode and there is plenty of content planned down the line. Battleblock Theater has a lot of charm to it, it has got a great 2D visual style, fantastic animations, hilarious cut scenes and the very low price of 1200 MS Points. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would, the gameplay is highly addictive and the crazy Arena modes are perfect for setting it up as a party game with a couple of people. If your a fan of platformers you need to check this out. Even if you hate the game itself the funny cut scenes are worth the Microsoft Points.