BattleBlock Theatre combines evil cats, a soul sucking hat and a large dose of immature humour. From the creators of Castle Crashers and Alien Hominid, The Behemoth steps up their game with this insane 2D platformer.
The plot concerns a group of friends sailing in their boat, the S.S Friendship, when a storm forces them to crash on an unknown island. Here, everyone is captured by a band of cats, and the player must perform in front of a live audience of kitties for their amusement. As the game progresses, you gain knowledge about the theatre’s past, the strange cats and a mysterious (suspiciously evil) glowing red hat, which has possessed everyone’s best friend, Hatty Hattington.
The story is expertly read by the disembodied narrator (Will Stamper), whose performance can single-handedly make the game worth playing. He gives words of encouragement throughout the gameplay such as “Don’t lose hope, I know I did.” and “If you touch that laser you’ll poop and die! In that order!” Clearly a lot of the dark humour involves toilet jokes and immaturity that is aimed for the child in all of us.
The comedy of the narration is combined with the purposefully simplistic art style, in the form of puppet theatre cut-scenes. The choice of art style makes sense of the (at times ridiculous) humour, upping the comedy through the visuals. The stages themselves are primarily made of blocks in bold colours with obstacles in the form of saws, poisoned water and grenade launching cats.
The basic gameplay is to platform through eight chapters, each containing nine normal levels and two timed final stages. In each level, the player must find at least three of up to seven hidden gems to unlock the exit. Collecting gems is rewarded by unlocking friends, which function as customisable heads for your character. Heads include a rabbit, a toothbrush, and other (frankly indescribable) creations, adding a rewarding completionist aspect.
The difficulty curve is fair and fun, with ending levels becoming very hard, especially for casual players, and hard mode being a decent challenge for experienced gamers. Where the game isn’t as fluid is its combat, which slows the pace of the game. Finding the bonus ball of yarn on each level is used to bribe cats for weapons. Despite some of these weapons being inventive, whacking a cat with your hand can feel clunky and I often found myself jumping over enemies in an attempt to avoid them. There are also only a small amount of weapons to collect. Since each only requires five balls of yarn, players will find themselves with a lot left over, although they can be traded for gems or heads online.
Two-player local and online co-op is available for the main campaign. The addition of new puzzles forces players to work together, making the game harder and thus more satisfying upon its completion. Admittedly, it can be more fun just to ‘accidentally’ kill the other player to help you progress.
Mini-games are available for up to four players. Many of these are an enjoyable diversion from the main game with a concentration on who can get the most kills while trying to steal the opponent’s horse or colour more blocks within a time limit. The mini-games are full of exciting tension and ‘well-meaning’ language at the other players. However, multiplayer with more than two becomes chaos. The screen zooms out drastically to allow everyone to see, and everything becomes visually frantic with bouncing players and exploding death.
The easy to use level creator (“If you hate our stuff, shut up and do better”) includes the ability to produce collections of levels in a playlist which can be shared with others online. Creating a successful playlist can be very rewarding, especially when watching a friend repeatedly die while trying to complete your course. An exciting feature is that the best stages are chosen by the developers and included within the game for a certain time period.
When it comes down to it, BattleBlock Theatre is a platformer carried by its humour and story. It has some inventive puzzles and quirky characters, which when combined with the multiplayer and mini-games options, makes for a lot of replayability. While combat and controls can feel fiddly at times, it is ultimately the art style combined with the dialogue that makes the game.
BattleBlock Theatre – The Behemoth