Cats have the potential to be evil right?
The team over at Behemoth Studios certainly think they do with the release of their new title, Battleblock Theatre. Published by Microsoft Studios and released onto the Xbox Live Arcade, this follow up to 2008s Castle Crashers has been worth the wait, keeping the same slick humour we would expect from the indie developer.
At its core, the game is a funny and irreverent platformer with a whole host of multiplayer options and user generated content that boosts the game’s potential gameplay to over forty plus hours. The Story sees you and some of your wonderful friends, including Hatty Hattington, become shipwrecked on a mysterious island. Sound familiar in today’s pop culture setting of being alone and stranded on a desert Island? Well fear not, this time there is no billowing smoke monster, crazy storm goddess or maniacal drug lord. Instead there are just cats. Albeit, crazy, technologically advanced cats, that have brainwashed Hatty with a lovely new top hat and who are now making you and your fellow marooned friends perform for them in their abandoned theatre.
Hopefully that illustrates enough; the crazy over the top bizarre storytelling that is starting to become associated with Behemoth studios and the plot you can expect to unravel while playing through the games Story mode. The way the story is presented is great; the cutscenes are executed well and break up the ever increasingly difficult platform levels that are the game’s main feature. You progress through different chapters, eight in all, and after completing the final act in each chapter you are presented with another short animation that adds another piece to the puzzle of what this island is, and how these cats rose to power.
Continuing to gush about how great the main story mode is, let’s talk about how simple yet effective the level design is. The levels have six or seven gems (and a ball of yarn) hidden throughout them that you have to find as you navigate yourself from start to finish. Throughout the level there are a number of obstacles, including cats wielding golf balls, boomerangs or grenades, water, fire and electricity. To open the exit to the level you only need to collect three of the gems but there is no fun in that and you will end the level with a poor rating.
At the end of each level the cat overlords score you, with the best result being A++ which you can unlock by collecting all available gems, the ball of yarn and completing the level within a certain time frame. This starts off as an easily achievable feat but as your progress through the chapters the time limit gets a lot harder to attain and the gems become hidden in very hard to find secret areas. Again, this just adds to the fun of navigating these levels and gives you a lot of replayability to in order to get that A++ ranking.
Another reason to collect all the gems available in each level is so that you can unlock your fellow prisoners. Each chapter has a gift shop where you can unlock prisoners using gems as a currency; once you have unlocked that prisoner you are able to customise your character. This is great fun in itself and there is a lot of choice on what head your playable character has. There are circular, triangular, square, oblong and star shaped heads that you can choose from. Then you are able to customise the colour of your character as well from a pre-set palette. This customisation is great in single player but really comes to life in multiplayer when you see you and your mates dressed as ninjas, fighting tigers or zombies.
This takes us onto the multiplayer then which continues to showcase the game with multiple vs. modes including a standard death match, a basketball type completion, a soul snatching mode akin to Halo’s skull collecting death frenzy, a king-of-the-hill mode as well as a few more. All were really fun and worth playing and the variety definitely makes this a party game that will be brought out time and again to be enjoyed by four player local or online play.
The controls of the game are really easy to get to grips with, both online in the multiplayer modes, as well as the single player campaign. Jump and attack are the basics (A and X respectively), with a sneaky right trigger grapple that could help some players unlock a sneaky 15G achievement (Melee Master). The Yarn that you unlock will also enable you to purchase different weapons that you can then select before going into multiplayer or campaign mode, ranging from paper airplane missiles though to slime guns.
I could continue, I really could, but the upshot is that the game is 1,200 MSP; this is starting to become a staple for XBLA games but it is well worth parting with some cash to take part in this adventure. The story is great, the multiplayer is fun and then there is a massive level editor I haven’t even spoken about that lets you create your own playlist and share online with the community. There are community spotlight arenas for players to download and play. The options and customization on the level editor are great, ranging from background and brick colour, through to the placement of hazards (such as water and electricity), enemies and gems.
If you enjoy platformers, cats or fun and laughter, then pick up this game and you won’t regret it.