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Check out Battleblock Theater right meow

Apr 19, 2013

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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Battleblock  TheaterWhether it's Grumpy Cat, Simon's Cat, Maru, or surprised kitty, the world is loaded with famous felines, and many of them are ridiculously adorable in their own way. You haven't seen anything, though, until you check out the cats in Battleblock Theater, a new title exclusive to Xbox Live Arcade.

This is a platformer that, on the surface at least, is as cute and colourful as 2011's Rayman Origins. In actuality, the story is far more twisted than what you might first assume. The nameless protagonist is shipwrecked on an island with his friend, and ends up in a theater where he's forced to perform - often to the death - for hundreds of cats that are sitting in the audience.

Just think of it as The Running Man with cats, complete with hilarious one-liners from a narrator who never seems to want to shut up.

Battleblock Theater is the latest title from developer The Behemoth, who you might know from past titles such as Castle Crashers and Alien Hominid, both solid side-scrolling action games in their own right.

Battleblock  Theater Sure, Battleblock Theater has some ridiculously over-the-top violence, a hum-along soundtrack, and truly sick humour, but a platformer isn't worth a second of a gamer's time if it doesn't have solid gameplay mechanics. Rest assured, this title nails the basics to a "T," then adds some really cool multiplayer functionality.

While you can attempt to complete every last level on your own and technically not miss out on anything, Battleblock Theatre truly shines when you add a second player to the mix. There's nothing revolutionary that happens when you go it with someone else; it's just a lot more fun messing around in the levels with another player.

Like so many countless other platformers, the idea isn't simply to get from point A to point B in each level. Each stage holds several green gems, and while collecting at least three of them will open up the exit, completionists will want to find every last one of them in order to get the highest grade possible.

Beyond the hidden gems and balls of yarn that you can use to "bribe" the cat guards in between levels to open up new stuff, there are cleverly hidden bonus rooms, as well as "boss" stages where you not only have to get from Point A to Point B by gathering gems, but you have to do it while being timed. These stages are also much tougher - but still a heck of a lot of fun.

Battleblock  Theater Battleblock Theater is also sure to suck in completionists thanks to the addition of a head- and weapon-collecting feature. By spending gems, players can free prisoners in the theater. Once freed, the player can then use the heads of those prisoners. You'll see everything from bears and pigs, to mustachioed artistes, to ... well, it's best to see some of the hilarious creations for yourself.

There's another reason to join other players, and that is that you can actually trade loot with them. By entering a trading post of sorts, you can either offer something up, or ask for something from the player, who then requests something in return, whether it's gems, balls of yarn, or a head or weapon you already possess.

There is a lot of stuff to collect, so while the levels themselves can each be done in a matter of minutes, there's plenty of additional things added in to keep players coming back.

Beyond the single player portion of Battleblock Theater, there are some truly chaotic multiplayer modes, pitting two teams of two against each other. There's plenty of variety here, but every mode is a little too anarchic for its own good.

Battleblock  Theater One of the big problems is that team killing is always active, and it makes for a seemingly never-ending stream of deaths. In King of the Hill, for instance, players are tasked with standing atop a very tiny platform to earn points. Holding off a quickly-spawning pair of enemies is one thing, but get in the way of a teammate's grenade or acidic bubble, and you may as well pray to the OMG Cat, because you're about to be blown up or melted.

Modes such as Color the World and Muckle (deathmatch) show plenty of promise, but it's nearly impossible to strategize. I understand strategy isn't a big focus of Battleblock Theater's multiplayer, but it feels downright stupid a lot of the time.

As an aside, it's a shame Behemoth didn't disable voice chat completely in multiplayer, like what was done in last year's Playstation Network-exclusive "Journey." I had the most fun when me and another co-op player had to physically show each other how to get to a certain ledge or cross a particularly tricky gap. Of course, you're always free to help or hinder the player, but remember that the old adage "what goes around, comes around" holds just as true in Battleblock Theater as anywhere else.

Battleblock  Theater Throw in a level editor that only adds to the replayability of this game, and you have a downloadable title that is well worth the price of admission.

The multiplayer is different and definitely an acquired taste, but even if it's not your bowl of Meow Mix, the single player and co-op stuff in Battleblock Theatre is bound to hold the attention of platforming aficionados for many months to come.

Now stop reading this review already - it's been at least five minutes since you last watched a cat video. What are you waiting for?!

 

Battleblock Theater
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: The Behemoth
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Official Site: http://www.battleblocktheater.com/

Rating: 8 / 10

 
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G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.