The Behemoth are the brains behind the amazingly addictive Castle Crashers and because of this the development of their new title BattleBlock Theatre has been under huge scrutiny since it was first seen in 2009.
So with it finally releasing last week after 4 years of development I had to admit I was wary that a simplistic game could take this long to complete and still be good.
And boy how wrong I was.
The game starts off with the most insane opening puppet animation that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and prepares you for the insanity that is to follow. The basic story is that you and a bunch of friends are sailing on a boat that gets caught in a storm and you end up being shipwrecked on an island…that is run by a group of insane cats.
Your best friend, Hatty Hattington, is taken prisoner by the cats and given a magic hat that makes him evil and he then takes over the island and makes you complete platforming puzzle stages for the entertainment of the crowds.
Got it?… good it doesn’t make the least bit of sense so if you are slightly confused don’t worry. Really, the story serves no purpose other than to move you from one chapter to the next.
The game consists of 8 chapters, each chapter has 9 standard levels, 2 timed end levels and then 3 bonus levels. Each level is normally completed in 3 minutes so the game only lasts 297 minutes or 5 hours. Why then did it take me well over 15 hours to complete the single player campaign on standard?
Well that’s a very simple question to answer… this game is incredibly hard. How do you measure hard though? Well telling your wife of 5 years that you’ve been sleeping with her mother and best friend for the past 3 years… that’s slightly difficult. Telling her that they are better than her is hard.
BattleBlock Theatres later levels can thusly be compared to going through this experience which each of your 19 wives that don’t know about each other.. at the same time as them finding out about each other… and all being armed with pangas.
But there is a difference. BattleBlock Theatre is also a ton of fun at the same time and is also incredibly intelligent. The puzzles can be incredibly frustrating and at one point I honestly believed there was a problem with the game as the level was simply impossible.
The concepts are simplistic enough. You control a little character who you can customise with different heads, colours and weapons and then you head out into a level. You need to collect at least 3 gems to open the end portal but if you want to get higher grades then you are going to want to find all 10 gems plus the ball of yarn and complete the stage in under a certain time to get an A+. I never got an A+ but I got a bunch of A’s, B’s and a couple of C’s.
To get through the stages you need to fight against enemy cats (only a few of them), jump over water or toxic waste, jump over circular saws, grab onto poles and bounce off fiery blocks to gain height. There are also robots that attack with homing rockets, exploding blocks, ice blocks, fans, rocks, conveyor belts and a group of other obstacles and enemies that will block your way.
It’s hard to explain but take a look at the screenshot above. You start at the flag and need to get through to the left part of the screen. To complete this insanely simplistic part of the game you need to walk under the first block, hit the fiery block that will throw you into the air, then avoid the saw blades and come down onto the next fiery block. Rinse and repeat, but look closely on this screen and you can see a teleporter on the bottom right, a poll to grab onto on the top right and a light bridge button on the bottom left.
In the real game you would need to use all three to collect the gems and balls of yarn.
But even if you are the very best button pusher on the planet and can time everything to perfection you still cannot finish this game without help. This help comes in the form of pets who are immune to spikes and can swim as well as chickens who swallow you and then excrete you at pace over large distances… yes gross.
There isn’t much more I can say about this game, if you are a fan of puzzle platformers then this is simply the best one that exists at the moment and is well worth the money for the single player campaign alone.
But wait that’s not all! Along with the single player campaign there is a full co-op campaign with brand new levels that can only be completed with a partner. I nearly killed myself for making so many mistakes in the single player campaign so I haven’t yet found someone who is brave enough to tackle the harder co-op levels with me, but the ones I played were a lot of fun.
Yes that isn’t all; there is also a huge multi-player section of the game with a ton of mini games like racing, basketball, colour the blocks and pure battle. You can play these locally with up to 4 players or via Xbox Live, or if like me you are forever alone, then you can play against the CPU. I don’t suspect you will get much mileage out of the multiplayer parts but it will be a great party title to load up when the drinks are flowing.
So what is BattleBlock Theatre? Well Geoff explained it perfectly as
Super Meat Boy + Splosion man + N+ + Castle Crashers
It’s 4 of the best games of this generation rolled into one and is worth every cent of its asking price of 1200 MS Points…and don’t forget to Buckle your Pants.
BattleBlock Theatre was reviewed by Gavin Mannion on a Xbox 360