STAFF REVIEW of Battle Block Theater (Xbox 360 Arcade)

Friday, April 19, 2013.
by Brent Roberts

Battle Block Theater Box art With summer fast approaching and the well of amazing retail titles starts to temporarily dry up, it doesn't hurt to go looking to the Xbox Live Arcade for entertaining titles that will keep you gaming for hours upon hours. With that said and after a long and patient wait, Behemoth games finally releases a new title called Battleblock Theater, and for once in our gaming history we get to enjoy the unrelenting, powerful, and awe inspiring power of cats.

Known for such titles as Castle Crashers, Battleblock Theater provides another innovative platforming experience from the twisted minds at Behemoth. Priced at 1200 MS points, Battleblock Theater is one of the more expensive titles you can find on the XBLA, but is it worth it? Only one way to find out, so let's begin! First and foremost one thing has to be considered and that is the plot of this game is full of humor that wouldn't necessarily be geared more to children, or sane people for that matter. Everything seems to start off swimmingly for your hero and friends. Everyone is cruising along on a massive ship called FRIENDSHIP (get it?) and having a great time until your ship gets caught in a storm so large that Russell Crowe himself would have been cowering with fear. With no end of the storm in sight you end up shipwrecking off the coast of some exotic island which has been claimed in name of cats.

Right before your eyes, you witness your bestest friend in the whole universe, gets corrupted by powerful cat magic and forces him to be a bad guy. What’s his first order of business? Why it's to kidnap your other friends and hold them prisoner while they perform a dramatic theater production of platforming tension and death that keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

With platforming being the central focus of Battleblock Theater it is absolutely critical that the play control of the game be next to perfect. Other games have suffered from either controls being too twitchy or too sluggish, but like Goldilocks, Battleblock Theater's control scheme hits very close to just right. Simple control setup such as punch, jump, use weapon, and suicide are complimented by responsive touches with both the left and right stick to produce a fluid and very responsive feel for the game. This plays into a major role when you find yourself trying to go from area to area and you have to contend with multiple different traps and obstacles. Each of these areas are divided up into smaller individual maps (which you can preview in the screen right above the doors themselves) and will force you to jump, double jump, vault, jet pack and more in order to collect all the gems and balls of yarn which will aid you in releasing your other captive friends and snag your character some fun new weapons such as a paper airplane.

There are a few innovations that bring more value as well to Battleblock Theater and that involves both the trading system and the level designer. At your fingertips you have the ability to create your very own levels and play them online with your friends and other gamers. With even most retail games not offering some form of level editing, it's a great surprise to have a platforming title on the XBLA offer this option up. Trading is also something that makes a revamped appearance in Battleblock Theater. By allowing you to trade for other prisoners, weapons, and more you get the sense that this is far more a social game than a single player platformer.

Deliberately done in a stick puppet theme, the graphics of Battleblock Theater are more humorous than eye blinding. The cinematic sequences between each chapter provide a comical experience comprised of the quality you could expect from say the earlier seasons of South Park. While the graphics have a deliberate funny feel to them, the soundtrack to Battleblock Theater could be classified as downright disturbing. While in the prison and selecting your level, your ears will be haunted by an eerie tribal riff which is complimented by the sounds of cats meowing over and over and over again. While the soundtrack is disturbing, the voice overs throughout the game provide another shot of comedy that is both strangely insulting and entertaining all at the same time. So now the curtain falls, and it's time to make a decision. "To buy, or not to buy, that is the question." The answer is a resounding yes. Even though 1200 MS points are a lot to spend on an arcade title, Battleblock Theater provides a hefty platforming experience coupled with a very creative and time exhausting level designer. When you add in the twisted humor that drowns every aspect of this game, what you get is a severely demented, yet very addicting and enjoyable platforming arcade game.

Overall: 8.7 / 10
Gameplay: 8.9 / 10
Visuals: 8.6 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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