BADGP Reviews: BattleBlock Theater

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BattleBlock Theater (The Behemoth, Microsoft)

Released: April 3, 2013 

July 18, 2013

Alex Linna

Review: A Crushing Cooperative Collect-a-thon

BattleBlock Theater is a game that makes mention of “Butt Salad” and “We are in quite a pickle jar here!” Needless to say, based on experience with previous Behemoth games (Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers) I certainly did not BattleBlock Theater to take itself all that seriously.  Based on previous experiences with the Behemoth, I did, however, expect a challenging, excellent, and highly polished product. And that is exactly what they delivered.

What is BattleBlock Theater and How Does it Play?

BattleBlock Theater is a 2D side-scrolling, collection based, platformer that requires intense cooperation between two players.  I do not think I have experienced a game that demands this level of co-op before.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  It can be immensely frustrating relying on someone else so much for progression, but it makes it that much more rewarding upon completing levels with all the gems.  Every level requires the acquisition of 3 gems to open the exit, however there are typically 6-7 gems per stage.  You want these extra gems so you can unlock more heads for your playable character.  There are four shapes of heads one can unlock, and the number of heads is legion!  I completed that game and was unable to unlock all the heads of one shape let alone all of them.  The Behemoth innovates in the genre with the numerous types of blocks on the field and by showing off their masterful design skills.  Blocks can give an extra jump, a sticky surface in order to wall jump off of, and even teleportation among others.  The platforming can take on a puzzle element, especially when trying to obtain the one ball of yarn in each stage (5 balls of yarn unlock an additional ranged attack or weapon).  Yes, there are weapons and they are largely meaningless. Their primary purpose appears to be for griefing one’s partner with.  I ran into a blind jump, which is a platformer “no-no,” but there is no consequence for death in BattleBlock Theater, so it is at least somewhat forgivable.

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How Does it Look and Sound?

BattleBlock Theater continues in the same visual design of previous Behemoth efforts.  The blocky, cartoony characters and environments are undeniably charming.  This is where I arrive at my largest complaint with the game however.  The game is visually repetitive.  Levels and boss stages do not change background environments except in the very last world.  Giving each world a more distinct feel would have done a lot for the game.  The repetition of environments made the game itself feel more repetitive.  Boss stages break up the monotony, but they all look alike too.  And now we get to perhaps the best part of the game:  the voice acting and cut-scenes.  The unlocking of heads may be BattleBlock Theater’s biggest motivator, but I was playing it long stretches to see the next hilarious cut-scene.  The gameplay is solid and certainly above average, but the cut-scenes are exceptional.  The music is also great with several tracks give a nod to Castle Crashers, but it felt like there were far too few tracks in the game. 

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Concluding on BattleBlock Theater

BattleBlock Theater is repetitive in both visual design and music, but refreshing with its creative platforming and gut-busting humor.  It is an easy game to recommend and is certainly inherently likable and makes a strong first impression.  Despite some expected cooperative frustration and griefing, BattleBlock Theater offers a unique platforming experience that provides a good challenge and plenty of laughs.

8.0 out of 10

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