I have been waiting for Battleblock Theater since the second I finished Castle Crashers. For those of you who don’t know The Behemoth, they are a developer who for the past several years have been working on mainly Xbox Live Arcade games. They released Castle Crashers back in ’08 to huge success, and have hotly been working on a follow up game since then. It is finally here in the form of Battleblock Theater. BattleBlock is a platform puzzler on it’s surface, but it’s also much more than that. The game includes co-op and an online arena mode, but that’s just the beginning. The animation, action, and decapitation is really the heart and soul of BattleBlock. With everything The Behemoth put into BattleBlock it’s no surprise the game turned out as amazing as it did.
My favorite mode in the game is by far the main story. In story mode you either play solo or co-op. While playing co-op you are forced to help each other through the level to be successful. The interesting part about solo is you’re playing the same levels, but obviously alone. The developers sneak in a few extra blocks to allow you to complete the levels all on your own. The highlight of the story mode has to be the intricate level design. Not only do these levels have to be playable in solo and co-co but also in the ‘Insane’ difficulty mode (in which you must restart the level if you die). The story mode has 88 uniquely designed levels plus 24 encore levels for added challenge. Just this mode alone holds several hours of gameplay, especially if you go back to play co-op with multiple partners.
The story to Battleblock isn’t the most important part of the game, but it is the funniest. Between stages you get to gleen little pieces of the story through puppet show cutscenes. The narrator every eloquently tells you the tale of this mysterious theater and the going ons. He also gives you advice while you are playing missions, like reminding you not to die after you’re already dead. His quips and comments only add additional laughter to an already bright and colorful world full of comical death in Battleblock Theater.
One of my only gripes about the game is part of your overall progression in the game. A nice touch to the game is that you are constantly buffing up your high score. Every story mission and every time you play in the arena you’re gaining gems for your character. The main purpose of gems is to spend them on unlocking numerous different character heads that you can then use to customize your own little buddy. All of this is good and well, but the huge downside is that you do not gain additional gems for repeating story levels. On one hand I can understand the developers don’t want people to grind easy levels just to get all the unlocks or to rise to the top of the leaderboard, but personally it hurts my replayability. There is no incentive to play the game with new players, or go back for the coveted A++ score. I think this really hurts the legs of the game to go on and sell as well as Castle Crashers did. A milestone of Castle Crashers is that every time you picked the game back up your character was gaining experience and leveling up. I wish Battleblock had that same sense of progression.
Leading up to the release of Battleblock I was looking forward to the arena the most. I knew story mode would have it’s moments but not be able to have the lasting appeal of a competitive multiplayer. The game released with a plethora of game modes, which makes for a nice and varied play session, but I find the execution of the multiplayer a bit lacking. The modes are four somes in teams of two. You get dumped in a theater much like the story mode, where you pick a door to go into that play space. This would work fine if it wasn’t for the lack of communication that takes place on Xbox Live. No one is ever going to the same place and it seems if someone goes to the Gift Shop (the in-game store) then it supersedes whatever anyone has already picked to do. Most matches just end up with the lot of us in the Gift Shop not doing much of anything. When you actually get into the area matches they are pretty fun. Like any online competitive multiplayer it takes some practice to get good, so don’t be discouraged at first.
One thing that is apparent throughout the game is the quality of the stuff we all take for granted. The art and animation is phenomenal. Again The Behemoth strikes with their unique art style that has been seen in their previous works, but with all new characters and fresh ideas for this new game. The music fits so well the only time I noticed it changing was while playing ‘Insane’ mode because the whole level resets, even the music, when you die. These are the little touches that make this game stand out from the rest of the downloadable stuff out there.
BattleBlock Theater has been well worth the wait. The Behemoth put as much heart and soul into the game as they have before to give gamers something to enjoy for years to come. The story mode is the highlight of the experience with smart level design holding the whole experience up. Also the addition of an arena mode for competitive multiplayer is a nice extra those who seek a more human opponent. The little touches, such as art and music, bring BattleBlock to the top of the charts when it comes to it’s peers. I’m excited to keep playing BattleBlock Theater for a long time to come.
Here’s The Rundown:
+ Amazing story mode
+ Comical narration
+ Winning art style
– Lacking replayability
– Poor online community
9 and 9.5 represent the pinnacle of the genre, a game that defines what that genre should be about. These scores are for games that you not only feel would be worth your purchase, but you would actually try to convince your friends to buy them as well.
BattleBlock Theater was published by Microsoft Studios and developed by The Behemoth. It was released on April 3rd, 2013, at the MSRP of $14.99. A copy purchased by RipTen for the purposes of review. The game was played to completion for the purposes of the review.