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BattleBlock Theater: Review (XBLA)

BattleBlock Theater, Behemoth, The Behemoth, Super Meat Boy, XBL, XBLA, Dan Paladin, Tom Fulp, Pax, review, 360, platformer,

We at Front Toward Gamer want to bring you the best we can about the latest games when we review them, but sometimes, early reviews mean part of the game isn’t ready. BattleBlock Theater’s servers aren’t up at the time of the reviews playthrough and writing, so this is simply a review of the single player “arcade” mode, and the score doesn’t reflect upon the online modes.

It’s been four long, long years since we’ve seen The Behemoth’s third game unveiled. With Penny Arcade Expo after Penny Arcade Expo hosting BattleBlock Theater but no release date in sight, it seemed we’d never see or play it. Finally, the rest of you can experience what’s been long developed, and long awaited, but should the curtain rise on this show, or should you ask for a refund at the box office?

Raise those curtains! BattleBlock Theater is a game not only worthy price of admission, but worthy of as much time as you can offer it. It’s a blast to play, ridiculously difficult, and overall: it’s fun! Requiring sharp reflexes, attention to detail, and some minor foresight, BattleBlock Theater will have you screaming in anger, and cheering in utter exultation upon a levels completion. Put simply, it’s Super Meat Boy through and through, and that’s a fair and just comparison. It’s not a slight against the game, in fact it’s a testament to the genre that Super Meat Boy reignited a couple of years ago, a genre still more overlooked than it should be. BattleBlock Theater is all about collecting gems and yarn throughout a variety of levels over eight acts, true “twitch” gaming, as every move can result in your sudden death, or victory. It will test your inner gamer to the core. It’s hard, it’s frustrating, it’s infuriating, it’s addictive, it’s enjoyable, and it’s ludicrously amusing.

BattleBlock Theater, Behemoth, The Behemoth, Super Meat Boy, XBL, XBLA, Dan Paladin, Tom Fulp, Pax, review, 360, platformer,

The Behemoth’s team has not lost their sense of humor which BattleBlock Theater retains, and then some for its story. Yes, it has a story, a razor thin, but somewhat intriguing story that spans eight acts, with more and more understanding, laughs, and explanation as you pass through each curtain call. After a shipwreck strands you (the head-shifting hero) and your best friend Hatty Hattington (I couldn’t make that up if I tried) have soon taken shelter on an island overrun by cats. You’re imprisoned while Hatty soon comes under the control of a top hat that causes him to become almost vegetative and not himself. If it sounds absolutely bonkers, it is, and the narrator truly makes it more-so. His quips about your progress, his storytelling, and overall presence will have you chuckling nonstop. More about the plot is explained by endgame, but the journey’s only a part of BattleBlock Theater, as the gameplay is what’s memorable here.
This is platformer, through and thorough. You will need quick reflexes, you will be scouring the level for gems, hidden and not-so-hidden, and you will rage. But it will all be worth it, because like similar games it the genre, the success of learning the layout and blazing through levels with a perfect run will make you smile like it’s your birthday. The controls are tight, and you will die because you messed up, not a result of the game being cheap or anything like that. When you die, worry not, respawns are infinite (in normal mode), and checkpoints are sprinkled enough throughout that you’re never too far from where you died. Oh GOD will you die…

But don’t let the fear or raging and anger deter you from checking out BattleBlock Theater, because just like Super Meat Boy, you need to play this to have an appreciation for the genre and games in general. BattleBlock Theater is an essential game for the industry and genre, and should be experienced by all, but especially by those who need a challenge from their games. You will die, over and over and over and over and just when you think you’re safe, you’ll die again, but it’s a sadist approach, meaning you will return for more, and like it. BattleBlock Theater can be knocked out on normal difficulty in about 5-7 hours depending on your capability, and if that’s not enough there’s more! An insane mode ensures even the hardened vets will struggle, while one-to-four player couch and online co-op can be accessed and allow you and your buddies to assist in surviving the absurd theater.

BattleBlock Theater, Behemoth, The Behemoth, Super Meat Boy, XBL, XBLA, Dan Paladin, Tom Fulp, Pax, review, 360, platformer,

If the matter of “being the best” isn’t enough to entice you, how about the idea that with every gem you find in your trials, you’re that much closer to saving fellow prisoners, does that help you? With a variety of heads and ranging prices, you will be replaying acts and trading with your friends for days before you can acquire all that are available to you. Simply aesthetic, the faces and heads give you no upper-hand, but they can be some of the most ridiculous and memorable faces you’ll see. Some might be more familiar than others for those who know the Behemoth’s previous works. If the story mode’s not enough for you, BattleBblock Theater has got more for you, don’t worry. Online arena modes consist of a variety of games, that should be familiar to you, with a twist: Soul (Oddball), Muckle (team deathmatch), Challenge (self-explanatory, but you simply maintain the highest score), King of the Hill (stay upon the crown block for points), Color of the World (territorial), Grab the World (Grab the gold, and keep in safe), Ball Game (ensure the ball’s in the basket), and Horse (get your enemy’s horses to your own stables for more points). As previously mentioned, BattleBlock Theater‘s servers were not up at the time of the review, so I was unable to test these modes, so it’s hard to pinpoint which could be the standout mode, but with such a variety, it’s safe to say only time will tell. A level editor has also made the cut, so gamers worldwide can make you rage just as much as the developers can. It’ll be very interesting to see what you all can create and torture your fellow friends and gamers with, and I’ll be waiting.

BattleBlock Theater, Behemoth, The Behemoth, Super Meat Boy, XBL, XBLA, Dan Paladin, Tom Fulp, Pax, review, 360, platformer,

BattleBlock Theater was a long time coming, but its final form is well worth the wait. It’s got tight controls, and it’s all wrapped up in a complete, colorful package that screams “gorgeous!” Crisp, clean sprites and artwork are peppered throughout, and the small touches here and there in each world and level only leave you combing every pixel for something more that the creators threw in. Some would argue (myself included) that a game developed over the course of four years is either a big bust, or a representation of love for the product. BattleBlock Theater definitely falls into the latter category, and The Behemoth love each and every one of us, and most importantly, videogames, as this latest gem proves. If there’s one thing I’d have to take away from BattleBlock Theater though, it’s the narrator. He’s a minor complaint though. His comments can get repetitive and grating after a long session, but you’re capable of limiting his “feedback”, so it’s by no means a deal breaker. This is a game that fans of both The Behemoth and twitch platformers, and even those hesitant of the often difficult, and alienating genre. But by all means, do not miss out!

BattleBlock Theater, Behemoth, The Behemoth, Super Meat Boy, XBL, XBLA, Dan Paladin, Tom Fulp, Pax, review, 360, platformer,