Game Review: “Battletoads”

   Growing up, the Battletoads franchise never really had my attention. After all, why would it, considering the last entry Battletoads Arcade arrived two years before I was born. I did eventually notice it being talked about years later by many reviewers like the Angry Video Game Nerd, and I played it myself on the Rare Replay compilation released in 2015. My reaction to it was lukewarm at best. I enjoyed a lot of the visuals and I enjoyed the variation of challenges that it incorporated, but I was not sold by the game-play itself and concluded it was not something I myself particularly enjoyed beyond a surface level. As many people will tell you, Battletoads is a difficult game, a combatant often deployed by older games to increase its length. Generally, I do not mind a difficult game, but I think when something feels artificially inflated, it is very apparent, and I think that applies to the original game.

   The videogame and its characters took very clear influence from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, but, without a lot of what made the Turtles feel cool and charming to fans. Rash, Zits, and Pimple merely are not as endearing as the turtles in a half-shell. The Battletoads have mostly fallen into obscurity, but a cult following does exist, and, for them, I am happy that Xbox Studios green-lit the new Battletoads game. Developed by Dlala Studios under the supervision of Rare, Battletoads is a reboot of the Battletoads series, serving as the first entry in nearly three decades, and bringing the batch of characters into the new world. The videogame was available on Xbox Game Pass on launch, and that is where I played it.

   I was pleasantly surprised by many aspects about the new Battletoads game. In particular, I was not expecting the sheer amount of diversity in the levels. Early on, you are dealt the anticipated scoop of mind-numbing, button-mashing, beat-em-up action, however, shortly after, you’re met with an array of puzzles and plat-forming I hadn’t braced myself for. Some of it fails, some of it succeeds, but, usually, nothing overstays its welcome long enough to become too cumbersome.

   The basic fighting game-play is satiable, brimming with a series of Looney Tunes style animation (zany to the max!) that offers a welcome energy and novelty to enjoy. That, in itself, unfortunately, does begin to have diminished returns very early, with each level feeling like you are letting air escape from a balloon. This is simply because there is not a lot of depth or sophistication to the combat. It is a very ham-fist approach to the formula. I had accepted that, but I did enjoy the skits and bits that were incorporates to offset it as well. They are short, sweet cutaway levels played for laughs, that may make you laugh or jar you because of how awkward the controlling of them is.

   The Battletoads game has a lot of personality and a lot of color to its narrative, even if the story itself is simple and light. During the cutaway scenes, it definitely feels like you are watching an animated series being pitched. The humor is very kinetic, very “in your face,” and, like a lot of it, some of it fails and some of it lands. In some respects, the humor reminded me of Teen Titans Go!, a series that I have only seen bits and pieces of over the years, (I loved the original Teen Titans series) where it’s very quick, very chaotic, and like something that does not demand your full attention. I enjoyed some of the jokes and their randomness, and other times, I would have liked for them to dial it back or not went in a certain direction at all, but I definitely think this has the potential to carve out its own niche.

   At best, the platforming and fast-paced levels, complimented by colorful animation and a nice soundtrack make me reminisce over how much fun I had with Rayman Legends, and even if it never does come close to that standard, the fact it even outstretches and makes an attempt is far more than I ever expected it would. I also thoroughly enjoyed the space shooter levels, which they did a lot more with than I would have expected. Some people might dislike they added “Galaga” levels into it. Me though, I like Galaga.

   The difficulty can leave a lot to be desired. I almost didn’t know if I wanted to complain about it. On the Normal difficulty, after a certain number of deaths, the player is allowed to project a shield over and makes them impervious to attacks for that segment. This is something that is clearly done to make it more accessible, but, only really makes me wish they would have gauged it better. I am not going to use a shield, because it feels like an admission of my own failure. Rather, maybe just, … like, … chill out a bit. This really only applies to a select amount of levels. I don’t have that much criticisms about the game’s difficulty overall, other than that it felt like its difficulty was inconsistent and, at times, off-putting. The only times I really had an issue were during some specific puzzle sequences. One stretch, in-particular, is sensory overload, where it is unclear what you’re meant to do, and it feels like an absolute mess. Certain decisions had me scratching my head about why they made the decision to lay everything out a certain way.

   I finished Battletoads in about four hours and feel pretty content with it. I would say I enjoyed more aspects about it than I disliked, but it’s a hairline discrepancy. The Saturday Morning Cartoon presentation and the variation of game-play is a check in its favor, but, in-general, I always expected a middling offering altogether and that what is generally comes out to. I don’t think things always have to be great though. Sometimes things can be middling and still worth enjoying, that’s where you will have to decide for yourself.

Rating: – 2.5 out of 5.0