BattleBlock Theater is a single or multiplayer platform game developed by The Behemoth and Big Timber Studio. It is available on PC and Mac for purchase at a regular price of $16.99 on Steam.
Released in 2013, this is one of my all time favourite single player/ co-op platform games. The humor in this game comes not only from the fantastic voice acting but also from small details like being able to punch and kill your friend in-game. Nothing feels more satisfying than getting a new weapon and being able to test it on your friend as his back is turned.
The game is set on an abandoned island ran by crazy cats that want you to put on a show by throwing you into these trials. You get shipwrecked on this island on the U.S.S Friendship with your friends who have geometrically shaped heads. Choose your preferred shape and let the show begin!
BattleBlock Theater can be played in either single player or co-op mode. Both modes are wonderful but I personally think the co-op version is better. Why? Because you get to push each other onto spikes, feed your friend to savage cats, use them then abandon them or even hadouken their ass. Of course, there are happier days where you actually help each other with the heights and pressing on panels to help your teammate get across, but that’s beside the point. Also, cats. Levels are divided into Acts which are further subdivided into Scenes, like a play. Each Act ends with a boss timed trial.
The objective of each stage is to get all the green crystals and if possible, the ball of yarn. You need to get a certain amount of crystals to be able to exit the stage and the challenge is to get all of them. The ball of yarn is the hardest to obtain and takes quite of bit of trial and error.
One of my favourite aspects of the game is the ability to revive instantly near your partner. Sometimes in order to get that one crystal floating over the deadly water, you have to die trying….which is fine because you just respawn next to your partner. Falling into water, getting spiked, eaten or electrocuted is an integral part of this game (or so I tell myself), so embrace it.
There are many “DID YOU SEE THAT?!@$!?” moments because of the sheer ingenuity of some of these puzzles. It makes you feel extremely clutch for being able to make that jump. Strategy is still necessary but sometimes your finger just needs to twitch randomly at the right moment. There puzzles are not repetitive at all. There is an obvious progression of mechanics and each becomes more difficult. They combine both old and new puzzles to create an entirely new experience for each stage. It is a smooth transition and the rise in difficulty was gradual.
There is a ‘boss’ stage that isn’t really a boss but a timed trial. You have a limited amount of time to get the required amount of crystals and jump into the exit. In other words, HUSTLE. I enjoy it because most of the time, the stage is extremely fast paced. In my play-through I generally needed two tries to get through the boss stage. You begin to think strategically, one partner goes for the ball of yarn while the other goes toward the crystals.
After three scenes or so of each Act, you get to the visit the Gift shop! There you can purchase customization for character heads and new weapons! Character heads are purchased through the green crystals you have gathered while weapons are purchased with the balls of yarn. 10 crystals for each new head, 5 yarns for each new weapon. I have tried out the grenade, suicide toad, boomerang and my favourite, HADOUKEN (aka fireball).
Controls and Graphics
The game recommends a controller but I played on keyboard just to test it out. According to Hanako, playing with a controller is seamless and intuitive. It is extremely responsive and you can easily pull off the more challenging jumps.
On the other hand, the keyboard system is a little messy. The default system on keyboard is arrow keys for movement, space to jump and A/D for attacks and assist. This really messed me up because I was use to WASD for movement. It did get a little easier after awhile and I was also able to customize the keybindings so no biggie.
I suggest everyone to play with a controller. I am sure it would be a hell of a lot easier. For those who don’t have one, fear not! The keyboard is simple enough even if it’s not as convenient as a controller.
The graphics are really cute and the ability to customize is entertaining. I enjoyed looking at my character and even found the enemies cute. The TOASTS were adorable. You heard me right, pieces of toast.
The cutscenes are done in a still motion method (showing consecutive still images) rather than true animation. While the stages are well done, the background could be improved by having more animation rather than a static image.
The narrator for this game is hilarious. At first I was put off by the over exaggeration but after awhile I began to appreciate the humor. As the story goes, the island is ran by cats that use to work for this man named Purrham Furbottom who had the brilliant idea of creating an island theater. It was a huge hit! But sadly, he died and his cursed
hat now goes to victim to victim who is forced to operate the theater in the Purrham’s place. Your friend Hatty is taken awhile and is locked in The Vault. You must reach him in time before the cats decide that you and your friends are not good enough to perform for the theater!
As the cats get more insane and you get put through more and more difficult trials, the narrator tries to encourage you to work harder and to keep at it. At the end when you finally reach The Vault you find Hatty unresponsive and catatonic (derping). You rescue him just in time while your other geometric friends orchestrate a mass breakout. Everybody runs for the ship but Hatty is still depressed and not unresponsive. He then gets thrown into the sea and kills a bear and then becomes normal. (Yeah I don’t know either) This extremely clear and definitely unambiguous happy ending is oddly suitable for this game.
- Difficulty: Medium
- Gameplay Score: 4.8/5 (Points docked for awkward controls on keyboard, but it IS meant for the controller)
- Graphics Score: 4/5 (Point docked for still motion cutscenes and static background on each stage)
- Music: 3.5/5 (The voice acting was good, but quite over the top. The music was repetitive and nothing special)
Overall, a fantastic game to play and one that I would definitely recommend!