Battletoads Review: A Blast From The Past

Battletoads returns after 26 years, and it's a love letter to gaming past and present.

Everyone remembers the infamous Turbo Tunnel level in the original Battletoads. Known for being notoriously hard, it swallowed quarters in droves during the heyday of arcades. The level took patience, perseverance, and a little luck to accomplish, but once you beat it, you were washed in a feeling like no other.

It was a testament to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles inspired game that many fell in love with. The game's cartoony visuals, loud-mouthed heroes, and classic beat ‘em up gameplay were indicative of the style that saturated the genre at the time. Over the past 26 years, fans have still clambered for another iteration — and the day they have been waiting for has arrived.

A lot has changed over those years and Battletoads knows it. Instead of feeling like a relic from a bygone era, the new installment feels very much like a love letter to the past few decades of gaming and an elaborate animated adventure that’s well worth your time.

Battletoads Review: A Blast From the Past

Marked as a reboot, Battletoads 2020 has players control Rash, Pimple, and Zitz across multiple stages. Acknowledging a substantial amount of time has passed since the last entry, the trio is stuck in a rut as times have changed. However, a series of strange events propels them forward into a new adventure that grows more elaborate by the second.

The plot that runs between each of the stages is loosely connected and filled with multiple gags and puns to drive the game's humor home. Most of the time, unfortunately, the jokes fall flat, but certain gems remain buried in the proverbial rough.

It’s hard to pinpoint which genre Battletoads falls into. Though some levels fall into specific conventions, others mesh styles, making Battletoads a genre-hopping adventure that's relentless in introducing new ideas.

For any gameplay element that doesn’t work for you, multiple proceeding stages likely will. Battletoads successfully balances being a platformer, a racer, a puzzle game, and so much more, all in one coherent package.

Between its narrative threads and gameplay elements, it often feels as though Battletoads is throwing everything at the player just to see what sticks. For most games, this would be off-putting, ruining the flow of the adventure. However, the developers at Dlala Studios have successfully ensured each segment is as polished and nuanced as it deserves to be.

Everything controls with the care and detail of a full retail experience. The beat ‘em up sections provide wonderful feedback with every kick, punch, and swing, and all three characters have different moves to keep the combat fresh. Swapping between each one on the fly can keep your combo going and the animated art style creates for some truly visceral encounters.

Boss battles are a particular highlight and embrace an old-school mentality. Delivering the pain requires a balance of platforming, dodging, and attacking. Each battle feels like the pinnacle of one or a set of combat mechanics, and accomplishing these challenging gauntlets feels rewarding. 

Elsewhere, players will find platforming levels, which do away with combat and instead offer puzzles as progression blocks. None are particularly challenging, but they break up the pace enough to bring something new to the table. 

Breaking down each gameplay variant would spoil a lot of the fun, and one of Battletoad’s greatest strengths is the way it manages to constantly surprise the player. 

While the Battletoad's campaign is breezy, it ultimately feels too short for its own good. Collectibles are littered throughout certain levels to extend the runtime, with additional ones obtainable through stage-specific challenges. These range from gaining an "A" rank in a combat encounter or completing a level within a certain time frame. However, none are enough to warrant another playthrough unless you’re a completionist.

Two other friends can accompany you on your adventure through couch co op. No online play is supported (yet), which feels like a huge oversight, especially for a game that will be readily available to many through Xbox Game Pass at launch. Local co-op has its charms, but again, the constant genre-changing nature may work for some players and not for others, so finding the perfect partner is key.

All of the game’s features are delivered through an aesthetic that truly embraces the animated style the series is known for. While many have criticized the art style, having the controller in your hands and playing the game is completely different. Each frame is meticulously crafted with such detail that it often feels as though you’re scrambling through the frames of a comic book. 

It often invokes the feeling of playing through an episode of Rick & Morty or any other Adult Swim property. Backgrounds are given character and the varied number of character animations brings some wonderful personality to each Battletoad. Simply put, it’s a visual treat.

Battletoads Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Beautiful hand-drawn art-style
  • Each genre is given time and care
  • Full of surprises and a wonderful blast to the past

Cons

  • Too short
  • Lack of online co-op
  • Humour often falls flat

Battletoads surprised me with how furiously fun it is. Gaming has changed drastically throughout the years, but the adventure often feels like a nostalgic trip through forgotten genres. With first-person shooters, RPGs, and battle royales dominating the gaming landscape, Battletoads feels like a breath of fresh air, despite riffing on classic gaming tropes.

The urgency at which it propels you through its runtime is both a blessing and a curse, as it’s hard to put down but ultimately a short affair. The humor fails to land most of the time and is clearly held back by its desire to cater to a wider audience.

Despite its missteps, Battletoads is a fantastically fun thrill ride with plenty of twists and turns. While its genre-hopping nature might not be for everyone, those who are gripped by it are in for a tubular ride. 

[Note: Rare provided the copy of Battletoads used for this review.]

Our Rating
8
Battletoads returns after 26 years, and it's a love letter to gaming past and present.
Reviewed On: Xbox One

Contributor

Published Aug. 20th 2020

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