BattleBlock Theater

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Funny games come few and far between; probably for a good reason. If you don’t find a ‘funny’ game entertaining, you probably won’t play much of it. But ‘The Behemoth’ make a good point of showing exactly what there game is like in their trailer (link bellow), which I happen to think is one of the best trailers I have ever seen.

After arriving at a strange island full of evil cats, ‘Hatty’ – your peoples leader and friend – is captured and made king slave by a strange power source in the form of a stylish top hat. On this bizarre island is a rather unusual theatre containing a series of prison wing-type areas and doorways to dangerous game show-like challenges. Your goal as the puppet of the show is to make it through the labyrinth of death collecting as many gems as possible along the way in search of your friend Hatty.

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Levels are made up of blocks that each have their own unique characteristics, and enemy cats that will throw grenades, punch you into hazards and blow you into things. Ice blocks allow you to slide – gaining speed as you go and laver-y red rocks send you hurtling through the air but surprisingly don’t harm you, unless you then land face-first in a pit of spikes, which happens often . Other blocks include conveyor belts, buttons, spikes, vanishing blocks and weird rolling yoghurt type things that you can slide down and jump from. A lot of your time will be spent seeing what blocks lay ahead, then dying somewhere and learning from it. Dying isn’t a problem in ‘BattleBlock theatre’; you simply return to the previous checkpoint. There is no limit on lives and your overall results aren’t affected by your death count.

Gems can be used to free prisoners, unlocking new ‘heads’ available to pick from. Cotton balls are also found in secret and hard-to-get-to areas of each level, and can be spent on new weapons. Weapons aren’t overly useful in the single player campaign as killable enemies come few and far between, but are game-changing in multiplayer. Each of the weapons are very different, ranging from ice cannons to waddling, exploding frogs wearing top hats. Some weapons kill instantly such as the hand grenades, but others are much faster or accurate. Fireballs set players on fire and eventually kill unless the player jumps into water and such. Other weapons are useful in reaching new areas, such as a nerf-gun that sticks climbable bullets to walls. One ‘weapon’ is a bouncy ball. That’s it, just a bouncy ball that can be passed back and forth for no other reason than a bit of fun.

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This is easily one of the hardest platformers I have played in a while, but not from the beginning thankfully. Instead, BattleBlock eases you in softly, introducing the variety of ‘blocks’ in a challenging yet fun manner. However, things slowly get tricky. Say goodbye to scoring an ‘A’ ranking on every level for collecting all of the gems. Instead you begin to almost forget about gems completely and aim only to reach the goal in one piece. Eventually you’ll be tearing your hair out trying to reach the next little ledge that has claimed several tens of your not-so-precious lives alone.

The multiplayer game has a variety of modes to play with. You can play the campaign cooperatively or competitively, or you can battle in teams of two for the highest score. The variety of heads and weapons as well as unique environmental hazards make for a very addictive and enjoyable multiplayer. Games are pretty short and extremely fast paced. Simply jumping on an enemy’s head can kill them (based on the game mode), but they will instantly respawn and take a leap at you or fire some sort of cannon your way. Winning will reward you with a bunch of gems to spend on new characters.

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Other than the odd comment or sound from the narrator, humour is kept to the cutscenes or generated by your own actions. After each chapter has been completed, the narrator will explain the situation in the form of a comical cut-out puppet show. If you enjoy immature humour such as poop jokes, you may find yourself laughing out loud on more than one occasion. One of the funniest moments I found however, was the music in one of the highly hidden secret levels. It makes me laugh thinking about it.

Possibly the deciding factor on whether or not you should purchase this game is by watching the trailer bellow. The actual platforming gameplay is tricky enough for those seeking a challenge, yet playable at most skill levels. The map-maker and online content offer an unlimited supply of new levels and the multiplayer adds a bunch to games replayability. There isn’t a great deal of variety in the environments as they all tend to stick to the same techno-theatre setting, but there’s plenty of fun to be had with BattleBlock Theatre especially when playing with a friend.

8/10

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Version tested: PC

Also available on: XBLA

Developer: The Behemoth

Genre: Platformer