The colourful 2D platformer by The Behemoth – BattleBlock Theater, is a hilarious romp in which a group of friends on the “Friend Ship” crash onto a mystical island ruled by theatre enjoying cats. It is safe to say that this is one of the most bizarre story settings that you can get, but it works really well with neat details from the cat bodyguards to the ticket salesmen. BattleBlock Theater is intended to make you laugh over the eight hour campaign and it does this very well.
Behemoth games are always going to make you laugh. They bring a style of comedy into games that you rarely see and BattleBlock Theater is by far the funniest game I have played. The writers incorporate the use of the theatre’s narrator incredibly well as he reels off joke after joke, followed by the odd sarcastic comment. This banter flows throughout this game, yet it somehow does not get old or overly repetitive.
However when I am playing a game, I prefer decent, focused gameplay over just laughs and gags. This is where BattleBlock Theater seems to fall from its initial high horse. The controls of the game are very responsive and easy to use, but they bring nothing new to the platforming genre. In addition to this, fighting is difficult, unresponsive, and frankly just not fun. Fortunately though, The Behemoth have limited the amount of combat, instead focusing on in-level collectables. In each mission there are six or seven gems to collect and a magical ball of yarn. When collecting the yarn, you can’t help but laugh at the narrator’s witty one-liners, but.
BattleBlock Theater features around 80 levels spread over eight increasingly difficult worlds. Each one has it’s own feel to it, with each mission adding new challenges along the way – be it dodging lasers or sailing boats across deadly water, the platforming element to this game doesn’t outstay its welcome. Once you have collected all the gems and beaten the time trial missions you have the option of playing again on Insane Mode. This is a true challenge to even the best gamers. All of the mid-level checkpoints will have been removed, so death means starting again right from the beginning. Expect to get very agitated by Insane Mode, but when you complete just one level, you will feel like a king.
Another huge tick is the sheer level of customisation available in BattleBlock Theater, as all the gems you collect can buy one of hundreds of custom heads for your character. This translates over to the multiplayer segment of the game, which is split over seven Arena modes. These are quite fun to play, with horse racing and King of the Hill being a blast to play, but it doesn’t really hook players in because unfortunately the difficult combat is a big part of the multiplayer experience. I felt severely limited when playing online, only able to play for a few minutes at a time before frustration sets in. To offset that though, The Behemoth have included a versatile level creator which is a great way to waste time and experiment. You can also upload your created level to the multiplayer mode for friends to play and judge, thus extending its lifespan somewhat.
BattleBlock Theater is great to play in short bursts. It oozes comedy and will bring out deep belly laughs from even the grumpiest of players. That alone makes it a great game to play, but unfortunately the game lacks a certain direction due to the use of poor combat mechanics. As a platformer alone, it would have worked wonderfully, but the use of enemies and combat can really ruin certain levels. Because of the shoddy combat, the multiplayer mode also suffers, being reduced to little more than an afterthought. That said, the eight hours of campaign is an amazing journey filled with laughter and challenges. The Behemoth have designed most of the levels to be fun and dynamic, with little repetition. Your time on this cat infested island falls just a tiny bit short of purrfect.