Battleblock Theater

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9.0 Overall Score

Fantastic Presentation | Unique Multiplayer | Tons of Replayability

Small Multiplayer Levels | Random Unlocks

Written by on April 9, 2013 in [, , ]

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The first time that I ever heard about Battleblock Theater was in 2009 at PAX in Seattle. After investing hours and hours into The Behemoth’s previous game, Castle Crashers, I was excited to see what they could do with a new game. Then, the wait began. For almost four years I waited with bated breath and now that we’ve seen the fruits of their labor, I can say that the wait was well worth it.

Battleblock Theater’s premise is simple enough. One day, a boat filled with hundreds of friends is hit by a massive storm. They become shipwrecked on an island with anthropomorphic cats running a prison-like theater. Hatty Hattington, who is the friendliest friend of all of the friends on the friend-ship, is cursed and turned into the bizarre ring-leader of this island. He then forces the friends to travel through several lethal levels for the entertainment of the cat people.

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While the premise is simple, the presentation makes the story hilarious. Cutscenes play out with paper dolls being held on sticks. Will Stamper does a fantastic job in his role as the game’s narrator and often times had me unable to breathe because I was laughing so hard. The visuals are a macabre mix of cute and violent, in a (still) fantastic looking style very similar to Castle Crashers. On top of all of that, the game’s music is brilliant.

The game itself plays out as a series of puzzle-platformer levels, requiring you to collect at least three gems scattered throughout the level before the exit opens. As you travel through the game, you will eventually be required to perform precision platforming, while being attacked on all sides. The single-player can get incredibly difficult, but thankfully all of the levels allow for unlimited retries, placing you at pre-determined checkpoints throughout the level when you die.

As mentioned, every level will require you to collect three gems placed throughout the level but you will want to collect as many as you can find. This is because when you finish a level, you can spend these gems on buying new prisoners to play as. What prisoner you get, however, is totally random so you may spend a huge number of gems before you find one you like.

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Additionally, each level has a single ball of yarn which can be used to buy new weapons. These weapons become crucial in the end game as many can help you to more easily traverse a level. One weapon fires out nerf-like darts which stick to the wall and can be climbed to reach areas more easily. Another fires a ball of acid, which can give you a boost if you jump on it.

The game features a co-op campaign, as well. However, you should avoid this mode completely if you play online without a mic. You can indulge in the mode offline as well, but if you don’t communicate with your partner, levels will be almost impossible to finish. Often times, playing online without a microphone causes a ton of frustration, especially when one player simply has no idea what to do in a level. The game doesn’t give you any good tools to communicate non-verbally, which is a shame because playing it with a partner who you can communicate with is a joy.

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While the co-op and single-player campaigns can be a lot of fun, it’s clear that The Behemoth put a ton of effort into building a really unique competitive multiplayer mode. While there’s the typical death match style game (known here as Muckle), other match types offer a lot of variety to players.

In Soul Snatcher when your enemies die their souls float out of their body and you must capture and hold onto them for as long as possible without being killed. Color The World places two competing teams into an arena where they must touch as many blocks as possible to color them for their team. Grab the Gold features a floating whale, traveling through a level, periodically dropping gold. Players must collect the gold and deposit it into a floating safe. There are a few other modes as well, each with their own unique brand of insanity.

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However, the fact that many of the arenas are too small is one big problem. Often times, in a group of three other players, opponents simply beat each other up because you are always right next to each other, even when this isn’t the objective. It often leads to stalemates where neither team is actually doing anything to win until the last few seconds of the game. This is especially true of a mode like Grab the Gold, where having a lot of room to move is almost a necessity in order to score any points.

The game does, however, feature a robust level creator. There are already a good number of user created levels. Additionally, there are a number of levels being created by The Behemoth in a special featured level section. Assuming this support keeps up, the game could have a very healthy lifespan.

Battleblock Theater is pure fun, whether you’re playing it multiplayer or single-player. The campaign is ludicrous and challenging, though the co-op should be played with people you know. The multiplayer is fairly unique and robust as well. This game is a fitting follow-up to one of the best downloadable games of this generation and hopefully The Behemoth will continue to support this game.

A code for Battleblock Theater was provided to The Married Gamers for review.

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Author: Addam Kearney View all posts by

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