I wasn’t sure what to expect from the reboot of Battletoads.
Going on previous outings and the little snippets of gameplay released here and there, I knew that it would have some kind of side-scrolling beat ’em up element, and that was enough to get me interested. And then there was the sumptuous art style; some will turn their nose up at it, sure, but present to me any game that looks like it could actually be a cartoon in motion and I’m happy.
The truth is, I don’t think anyone is really prepared for what Battletoads has in store for them. It’s a three-or-so hour roller coaster ride full of combat, puzzles, minigames, platforming, zany humour, and so much more. More impressively, it manages to combine all these things with great finesse; nothing feels out of place or shoehorned in. Every aspect of the game is polished, and though it’s wholly enjoyable when played alone, get a couple of friends or family members in on the act and it’s an absolute riot.
“A three-or-so hour roller coaster ride full of combat, puzzles, minigames, platforming, zany humour, and so much more”
Presented via wonderfully animated and voiced cutscenes that could easily be mistaken for a TV show, Battletoads‘ story is genuinely entertaining. It’s also extremely funny, leaving you chuckling in between bouts of its varied action. Reunited with Rash, Pimple and Zitz once more, you’ll find them coming to the realisation that they’ve been locked away for 26 years, and now everyone has forgot about them. Needless to say, they’re determined to make themselves celebrities again.
The adventure starts off with some some old-fashioned side-scrolling fisticuffs, as you’d expect. Each character has their own characteristics – Pimple is the largest of the Battletoads, for example, and so he moves slower, is a bigger target, and hits the hardest – but they all control the same. One button performs a standard attack that forms the basis of combos, another launches enemies up into the air, and to break an opponent’s guard or simply cause a world of pain, another button can be held to charge up a powerful attack.
“Battletoads‘ side-scrolling beat ’em up sequences are undoubtedly the highlight of the game”
On top of that, each Battletoad can jump, dash out of the way of incoming damage, and use their tongues in a myriad of helpful ways. Flies can be snatched up from a distance, healing a small amount of health, bubblegum can be spat at enemies to keep them held in place for a brief period of time, and hooks can be grappled to move you in and out of the background. Your tongue can even by used to pull enemies towards you, or you towards them, much like Nero’s demonic arm does in the Devil May Cry series.
Battletoads‘ side-scrolling beat ’em up sequences are undoubtedly the highlight of the game, with the action getting pleasingly chaotic at times. You’re rarely just moving right and pummelling your enemies into submission; you’re conditioned to watch out for collectibles lurking in the background that you can grab with your tongue, or targets that you can shoot. And there’s also the occasional puzzle to complete, as well as a hacking minigame.
“Battletoads is huge amounts of fun when played alone, but it really comes into its own when played in co-op”
Sometimes the side-scrolling beat ’em up action is put on the back-burner for extended periods of time, however. You might find yourself carrying out a menial job, playing the odd game of Toadshambo, or racing a hoverbike through an assault course. One of the game’s four acts is even pretty much comprised of just platforming and twin-stick shooter segments. The pace of the game suffers slightly as a result, but everything is put together so well that you’ll still be glued to the screen.
As mentioned previously, Battletoads is huge amounts of fun when played alone, but it really comes into its own when played in co-op. Only local co-op is supported unfortunately, but it’s of the drop-in drop-out kind, so additional players can come and go as they please without causing a disruption. Players will need to work together to succeed, effectively communicating with each other in certain activities, for example, or picking each other up when they’re down in side-scrolling beat ’em up sections. It simply makes everything more involving and enjoyable.
“There’s been a lot of great games released this year, but Battletoads will surely prove to be one of the most memorable”
Battletoads continues to make the series more accessible, too. Multiple difficulty levels are available, and while you can’t change it mid-game, well-placed checkpoints ensure it’s always possible to proceed with sheer determination. And if you die often enough, the game will throw you a lifeline in the form of invincibility. You can, of course, turn that feature off if you wish. Basically, you can make Battletoads as easy or hard as you like.
It’s hard to play Battletoads and not be mightily impressed with what it achieves. It mixes so many genres and does it so, so well. Then there’s the humour, which is a hard thing to get right, especially in the world of video games. Dlala Studios and Rare have a done a grand job of bringing the Battletoads into the 21st century, and I really hope we get to see more of them. There’s been a lot of great games released this year, but Battletoads will surely prove to be one of the most memorable.