Speaking as someone who was “strongly encouraged” to do theater for the first 18 years of my life, I’m kind of burnt out on the whole idea. I still enjoy watching and reading plays, but I can’t get back on the stage. It’s like a Roman Colosseum, unwillingly performing to entertain a ravenous crowd. I don’t know if anyone at Behemoth had a similar experience, but I can’t help playing Battleblock Theater and interpreting it as a parable for unfortunate theatrical experiences.
Don’t get me wrong though–the game doesn’t dredge up memories of being dressed up in a chicken suit cheeping in an affected British accent–no, the game is much more enjoyable. We’ve already given the Xbox Live Arcade version its due praise, but now that it’s been ported to the PC via Steam, does it come close to approaching the quality of the original? I think I can safely say that it does. In fact, this may very well be the definitive version of the game.
BattleBlock Theater (PC [Reviewed], Linux)
Developer: The Behemoth
Publisher: The Behemoth
Released: May 15, 2014
If you played the original when it released, there aren’t too many surprised in store for you here. The plot’s the same: You shipwreck on an island of sadistic cats who force you through a gauntlet of death traps for their amusement while holding your friend Hatty Hattington hostage. In the single-player campaign, there are eight chapters. Each chapter doesn’t necessarily contain a new theme like most platformers, but there will normally be one new obstacle or vehicle they will play around with per world. This can lead to a little bit of visual dullness since the backgrounds don’t change much within the levels. Since the gameplay is so fast-paced and responsive, it’s unlikely you’ll notice too much–but as a word of warning, be sure to use a controller for best results.
Despite the fact that there are 80 levels necessary to complete the story mode, Behemoth has a good way of introducing new toys and challenges so you don’t feel like you’re playing the same level over and over again. The only place I had an issue with this was in the final couple of chapters in which some of the levels seemed to follow a similar mold. Half of them send you all around the map to press buttons to unlock the exit, while the others tend to send you to one end of the map only to backtrack all the way back through a series of obstacles you’ve just opened up.
Of course, the single-player in this case is really only the cherry atop the sundae. There are three main reasons to play this game: The dog-eat-dog co-op, the hilarious narration, and the deliciously cartoony art style. I didn’t get to spend much time with the multiplayer in this port, but it functions the same as the XBLA version, which is to say it works very well. The narrator is also just as entertaining as always, featuring hundreds of unique comments and quips. I’m sure you’ll hear repeats every now and then, but it seems like the writing team went above and beyond to create a massive index of quotes to minimize this. Even in the eighth chapter of the single-player campaign I was still hearing new comments.
This has always been a good-looking game, but adjusting the resolution on PC can upgrade it from merely pretty to nigh holy levels of visual glory. That may be an exaggeration, but when you see the game in action up to its full potential, it really is quite impressive. There is one caveat, though: I had some framerate issues early in my playthrough. An update fixed it, but other users have reported similar problems which can nearly ruin the whole package.
BattleBlock Theater is a solid platformer title with loads of content. With 80 main levels with three additional “Encore” levels per world loaded with collectibles and time trials, this game will last you awhile. Even after you’ve beaten the campaign, various unlockable skins and weapons will draw you back in for multiple playthroughs. Then, of course, there’s also the level creation tool which is bound to provide thousands of quality levels made by players themselves. BattleBlock Theater is a game that invites you to make your own fun, and on PC its easier to do so than ever before.