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Battleblock Theater hands-on preview

Not only do I have nothing but good things to say about The Behemoth’s games so far, I can as go as far to say that if you don’t like Alien Hominid or Castle Crashers, I probably wouldn’t like you. Gamers my age have always looked forward to the day when we’d be able to play living cartoons, but never in my wildest dreams did I think they’d be as charming, fun and adorably violent as those aforementioned titles.

To add some further cred to The Behemoth, it’s the company that formed from the animated goings-on over at one of the best websites on the internet, Newgrounds.com.  That said, they are also a small team. Fans who spent an overly long amount of time waiting to play Castle Crashers know these guys move at the speed of an, to put it nicely, independent developer.

But see, I played BattleBlock Theater last year at Comic-Con and didn’t really care for it. While it was animated with amazing fluidity, it was still very early in development, and the only thing they were showing off were isolated, competitive minigames along the lines of just about every supplemental mode found on about every Wii game… I’m SO goddamned glad I played it again!

Not only was my co-op play session today (on an old-school arcade cabinet, no less!) filled with more impressive level design and elaborate visual detail, it kinda struck me as the culmination of twenty years’ worth of 2D platforming. Sorry if that sounds like hyperbole, but it’s everything I want to do in that genre, with the look of a handdrawn cartoon. Everything you ever done, or wanted to do, in a traditional sidescroller is here, looks gorgeous, and is a goddamned blast to play through. Yes, even with total strangers on the Comic-Con showfloor.

To start, I loved the customizations you can pull off on every character before entering the game. Of course you can assign a rudimentary shape to your BattleBlock noggin, but you can also pick what weapon you bring with you (in addition to your cutesy punch, kick, wall-jump ninjitsu!) My partner chose bouncing grenades while I went with flinging discusses that land then give off a timed explosion.

So while last year’s mini-game challenges didn’t do anything for me, the co-op pretty much blew me away today, and in a way that New Super Mario Bros. Wii fell significantly short in, IMO. Unlike Nintendo’s admirable effort where players share a physical space, instead of getting in the way and sending plumber into pits they actually help each other out constantly as they work towards common goals and a billion other immensely satisfying mid-level milestones.

Imagine that, instead of stomping another player on the head and send him to his doom, you actually had a button to rescue fellow players on the brink of pit death. Plus, instead of jumps interfering with one another, you can jump – and double-jump – off of your buddies to reach the unreachable. Throw one another, explode one another, open doors for one another – BattleBlock theater may be a little “old school,” yet it’s the furthest thing from a mere left-to-right experience.

It’s difficult to describe the levels themselves, because my partner and I didn’t even come close to exploring all the options in the level. There’s a letter grade at the end, so you’re given ample reason to explode every block, open ever door, sail on every boat and find every gem. God, I hope the screenshots do that sentence justice.

Topics

Comic-Con

16 comments

  • NelosAngelos - July 24, 2011 11:49 p.m.

    Sweet, I still play Crashers, this'll be awesome when my cousin comes over to play.
  • ThatGuyFromTV - July 24, 2011 11:36 a.m.

    @SecretGingerWizard yeahh... i took a second look at the review and saw the difference in writers after i posted the comment and hoped nobody would point that out...
  • hugobedward - July 24, 2011 7:03 a.m.

    http://youtu.be/TgjSSk4iuTo
  • hugobedward - July 24, 2011 6:52 a.m.

    Guys, I know this isn't completive relevant but that game "the act" you talked about in a list a few years ago is finally getting a release in august. trailer down below TheAct
  • BoobleDrop - July 24, 2011 6:03 a.m.

    i remember when they said game nummber 3 will be released in 2010. it seemed like an impossibly long wait, but man it just flew by. i guess what i'm trying to say is is this game gets releases this year i am prepared to name the behemoth as the one true god recaptcha: yeastie 103 EWWWWWWW
  • HaVoK308 - July 24, 2011 5:38 a.m.

    Behemoth is developing it? That's all I needed to here. Just tell me when and where and I'll buy it! Like Twisted Pixel and Double Fine they have earned my trust and loyalty. They never fail to deliver a great game on all fronts.
  • CaptCOMMANDO - July 24, 2011 4:33 a.m.

    I am very excited. The Behemoth can take as much time as they want with this one. Let it bake in the oven till its ready.
  • Cleanser247 - July 24, 2011 4:10 a.m.

    Ha! It really does remind me of Castle Crashers! I'm going to take a look at this for sure! Great preveiw Chris! : )
  • SecretGingerWizard - July 24, 2011 4:07 a.m.

    That's a different person who wrote that review. This one: Chris Antista, GamesRadar US The CC Review: Matthew Pellett, Xbox World 360 UK Please try to understand that the opinion of one person does not reflect the opinion of the entire staff of GamesRadar.
  • ThatGuyFromTV - July 24, 2011 3:50 a.m.

    HYPOCRITES!!! I specifially remember you guys bashing Castle Crashers for being shallow and, quote, "wafer-thin". I have the review to prove it: http://www.gamesradar.com/xbox360/castle-crashers/review/castle-crashers-xbox-live-arcade/a-2008092314205310092/g-2008022016039582037
  • CancerMan - July 24, 2011 2:11 a.m.

    Release Date?
  • birdro - July 24, 2011 1:59 a.m.

    Bleh, your screenshots disappoint that sentence greatly. Like a certain useless do-gooder here though, I Can. Not. Wait.
  • Lemons - July 24, 2011 1:57 a.m.

    Hell yes, both Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers are awesome and funny ass games. Hope this one is just as good, definitely buying it to see if it is. The fact that it's co-op as well only seals the deal.
  • archnite - July 24, 2011 1:17 a.m.

    Is this game still not put yet?
  • UnwantedHero - July 24, 2011 1:04 a.m.

    I can't wait for this. I have been waiting for it since it was known as Game #3.
  • monicleman - July 24, 2011 12:41 a.m.

    I am really excited for this, i hope it is as good as castle crashers.

Showing 1-16 of 16 comments

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