STAFF REVIEW of Guilt Battle Arena (Xbox One)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Guilt Battle Arena Box art There will always be a market for local co-op games, as there’s nothing quite like having a group of friends over and playing a game together, usually complete with taunting and swearing amongst your buddies. Developer Invincible Cat, a one man crew, has come up with what they believe to be the next indie party game hit that you’ll want to gather your friend over for, titled Guilt Battle Arena. There’s no shortage of indie games, nor party titles, so the question remains that if this one is worth the price of admission and what the longevity is.

With a cute and quirky ensemble of characters that resemble something straight out of Castle Crashers, you’ll be able to play amongst family and friends in some frantic local couch multiplayer, cooperatively and competitively. While I don’t do the whole having friends over to play couch co-op anymore for the most part, when the rare occasion does occur, we have the typical go-to titles, so does Guilt Battle Arena have enough to earn a spot into my coveted party game rotation? Well, kind of, for about 15 minutes anyways.

While there’s no real story per-se, there’s something about your characters being a part of the GUILT patrol, tasked with battling against Dreadful Judge’s evil henchmen. That’s really about it, as narrative isn’t a focus here at all, as it’s simply a drop in and play multiplayer game for the most part. Guilt Battle Arena’s sole focus is as a multiplayer party game, and it doesn’t attempt to do anything more. There’s actually no real campaign at all, though I guess you could call the cooperative mode its campaign, but it only consists of a handful of levels that will take about 10 minutes to run through once. So if you’re looking for something with a lot of substance, start looking elsewhere.

Played in 2D, there are two main mechanics that you’ll have to get the hang of to become successful and earn up to three stars on each stage. First, you’re constantly in motion the direction you are facing, and while you can move back and forth from left to right freely, there’s no real stopping in the small playfield, so this will take some getting used to. Secondly, you have one bullet for your gun, which you’ll need to pick up and gather each time you want to fire it. This odd design decision actually adds an odd level of strategy, making you think quickly on what needs to be fired at first before retrieving your bullet and shooting again, weighing when it's safe to do so.

These premises are very simple, almost to a fault, but they work. While I don’t necessarily enjoy the constant motion and movement, you become accustomed to it quite quickly. There will be enemies that approach from both sides, on the ground and in the air, so you’ve got to constantly be moving to not only avoid getting hit and losing one of your three lives, but to pick up your bullet once shot as well. You’re able to dash by double tapping the stick in the direction you want, and you can also quickly dive down, though you cannot butt stomp enemies like a certain mustached plumber. Actually, it took some time to figure out, but you don’t actually take damage from enemies unless you are hit by their weapons, not their bodies, so this is another layer of strategy on determining what to attack first once you realize the hitboxes.

The foundation and controls are simple, yet it’s not clear how you earn 3 stars on certain levels. I’ve lasted a long time during a few of the stages, only to be granted a 2 star rating, so I’m not sure if there are certain other conditions that need to be met to earn those elusive third stars or not. The more you play though, the more characters you’ll unlock in addition to the initial 10 selectable. These are simply skins and don’t have any advantage or one another, but there’s something cute about a cat cop that made me smile. With over 30 characters to unlock, there’s at least something to works towards, though you just aren’t explicitly told how to do so, but I’d assume star accumulation.

You’ve essentially got two different mode choices; 1-2 player co-op or 2-4 player versus. That’s it. Cooperative has no friendly fire, seeing how many enemies you and a friend can defeat before someone loses their three lives. That’s right, if one person loses all of their hearts, then its game over for both players, so the better player can’t really carry the other person. This made it really difficult to play with my 5 year old daughter, as she was drawn to the game for its bright and colorful visuals, but we constantly had a game over after about 30 seconds every time. I do wish there was some way to bring back a friend, but alas, expect many quick game overs if you’re playing with a less skilled person alongside.

Versus mode is where things really get frantic, especially if you have 4 players all fighting against one another. You’re able to choose the different stages, each of which has a special modifier on it, like missiles coming at you, chickens to avoid, cannonballs and more. There are also some other toggles you can enable should you desire, like more bullets, jetpacks, invisibility and more. While these add some unpredictability and variety, they aren’t anything really special and might give you a few more matches of entertainment before you move on.

I initially thought Guilt Battle Arena was made by the Castle Crasher developers, as the art style is eerily similar, though I guess as the saying goes, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery". It's very cute and colorful, which is probably why my daughter gravitated towards it and wanted to join in playing as soon as she saw it. The audio is very fitting, with cute sound effects to match the cartoonish style for every gunshot and attack.

While Guilt Battle Arena makes for a fun distraction, there’s simply not enough content included to justify its staying power, rotating into party game night, mostly due to its price. If it was priced at about $5 then it would be a different story, as I’d have no problem dropping that for a quirky party game now and then, but it’s listed at $13. Sadly, the price tag is too high for what’s offered.

That’s not to say it’s bad, but it’s very simple and you’ll mostly likely had all of your enjoyment out of it in the first hour or two. If I wasn’t reviewing it, I would have uninstalled it long before I did, as it really felt like a ‘play once’ type of game, and when that content only lasts you an hour or two, you can see where the issue about its pricing comes in. Guilt Battle Arena has a neat premise but there’s simply no longevity to its gameplay.

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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