BattleBlock Theater Review - Cats, Hats, and Explosions

Marshall Lemon | 9 Apr 2013 22:00
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The game can be completed as a solo playthrough, but the suite of co-op options and party games make it clear that BattleBlock Theater is meant to be played with friends. Campaign levels have been altered slightly from the single-player mode to ensure players are working together to survive and solve puzzles. The experience actually lines up pretty well with the theme of friendship conquering all, and it's surprisingly heartwarming to watch your avatar lift an ally over dangerous obstacles. Once the story is complete, you can retry old levels to increase your score, or enter the Arena for eight highly amusing party games. You can also design your own content using an in-game level editor, although given the sheer amount of content within BattleBlock Theater's included worlds, you may not feel the need to open it for some time.

Outside of personalized levels, BattleBlock Theater also features a large number of unlockable items to keep the game fresh. Gems collected in the story campaign can be spent to purchase character skins, and it won't take long before the diverse cast of heroes includes everyone from ninjas to pugs. The skins are largely cosmetic, but add a nice boost to your enjoyment when you have a collection of amusingly silly personas to choose from. (Xbox 360 players who own Alien Hominid or Castle Crashers will have those games' protagonists available immediately.) Yarn balls can also be collected to purchase weapons, although they're not necessary to complete the story campaign. Weapons are best used within BattleBlock Theater's Arena, where they're as hilarious to unleash as they are frustrating to be subjected to. Just keep friendly fire in mind, as the tightly designed arenas make team killing as common as enemy deaths.

This all said, if you're the kind of player who's grown tired of random-humor games like Super Meat Boy, BattleBlock Theater might wear you out fairly quickly. The game's platforming elements are solid, but being constantly surrounded by oddball narration and ridiculous scenarios dulls the impact of BattleBlock's genuine appeal. It's difficult to play for much more than two worlds in one sitting before everything blends into a massive disjointed blur. Some cutscenes are especially egregious offenders on this score, dragging on for longer than necessary thanks to lengthy amounts of meaningless exposition. You can skip them if you choose, but then you'll miss most of BattleBlock Theater's backstory. That's not to say the game is without its charms, simply that there are too many charms competing for your attention, meandering on about cats, hats, and explosions.

Bottom Line: BattleBlock Theater is a refreshingly upbeat platformer that puts silliness and fun above all else. The gameplay is easy to grasp for platforming veterans, while the massive amount of content and alternate game modes ensure you'll be entertained for hours. You also may never look at your cat quite the same way again.

Recommendation: If you enjoyed Behemoth's previous games, or are looking for a very unique platformer to take on with a friend, BattleBlock Theater is for you.

Game: BattleBlock Theater
Genre: Platforming
Developer: The Behemoth
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Platform(s): XBLA

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