BattleBlock Theater: A Stroke of Mad Genius
I was involved with the BattleBlock Theater beta. Unfortunately, due to a particularly grueling work schedule I had somewhere in the area of 45 minutes to play it. Needless to say I was underwhelmed. Weeks later it released and on a stroke of boredom I purchased it and started playing co-op only to find that I was wrong.
BattleBlock Theater is made by Behemoth, the same people that brought us one of the best downloadable games in memory, Castle Crashers. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that BattleBlock Theater is fantastic. From the witty script to the misleadingly adorable art style, the game rarely makes a considerable misstep.
**Hatty Hattington and his friends.**
Behemoth brings their signature hand drawn style back for BattleBlock and it has never been better. The animations are adorable and fluent and everything from a simple jump to helping a buddy up a ledge looks great. The game looks flat, yes, but that’s the point; the simplicity of the style only makes the game more charming.
All of the avatar options are a combination of cute and silly, and there are TONS of options. There’s an in-game currency where you can buy new “friends” (which are just customizable heads) with which you can play. They range from stuff like a little crying panda head, to a weird robot with sharp teeth. They’re creative, entertaining and pointless (in a good way).
Speaking of charming, this game is hilarious in a way that makes me embarrassed to call myself an adult (which I rarely do anyway).
Will Stamper, who has worked with Behemoth on previous titles, does an amazing job as The Narrator regardless of the fact that 50% of the jokes in the game are poop related (they’re funny every time). Let me ask you: Have you ever heard a game with a line that is, and I quote DIRECTLY, “He pooped himself to death on his way to the bathroom”? I’ll answer for you: No. It was hilarious. As are the little quips The Narrator says during the levels from stuff like: “You died doing that? Even I could do that,” to the always welcome “OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS!” The dialogue, while sophomoric and ridiculous, is ultra funny.
**All of the spikes... They're terrifying and deadly.**
BattleBlock really shines with its gameplay. The platforming is tight and responsive, and the difficulty increases gradually so it feels natural. At a certain point it does become very difficult, to the point where it can be mildly agitating, but never flat out frustrating.
You’ll find yourself replaying the same level over and over again to get all of the little green gems that double as the in-game currency. And don’t even talk to me about missing a ball of yarn, which can be traded to your kitty captors for new weapons. On top of that, sometimes the sort of boss of BattleBlock Theater, Hatty Hattington, will toss out a golden hat that nets you an additional 10 green gems – it’s a big deal guys. Every level is truly different and equal parts addicting, difficult and rewarding.
The platforming puzzles gradually ratchet up from simple, to complex and only towards the end of the game do you start to realize how many times you’ve died trying to do the same thing over and over. Fortunately the checkpoints are forgiving, and will almost always put you near your partner while playing co-op (which is where the game truly shines). Every once in awhile you’ll be able to make it through a particularly difficult puzzle without dying and the joy will literally bring you to your feet, unless you’re heartless – you’re not heartless, are you?
The biggest caveat of the game is how easy it is to die. It's not big enough to break the game or anything, but there have been countless times where my co-op partner has accidentally jumped on my head and forced me into pit of death. It's shockingly simple for your "friend" to accidentally kill you, and it kind of gets old after while.
**The art is equal parts bizarre and awesome.**
BattleBlock is more or less endless. Yes, the story mode is finite, but there are two modes, and beyond that it always lives online. What’s that? You’re bored of online? Oh, well check out some custom made levels then! Or better yet, make one yourself. There is always something more to do in BattleBlock Theater and this is coming from a guy who so rarely likes multiplayer games that I refuse to buy a game at full price without a single player game longer than 10 hours. BattleBlock pulls off multiplayer in a way that is inoffensive and fun, instead of it being grating and frustrating.
**It's... so beautiful!**
Based on the beta portions I played I wasn't sold on this game. At the end of the day, I loved Castle Crashers so much that I felt like I would be making a mistake if I didn’t give BattleBlock Theater the same chance. I think it’s apparent that I’m really glad that I did.
Have you played BattleBlock Theater? If you haven’t what’s wrong with you? Go buy it! Then tell me what you think of it and maybe I’ll give you an oil change (with that fancy synthetic stuff) and throw in a tire rotation for free!