When speaking about the indie genre, The Behemoth is the quintessential story behind its success. The founder started their venture into the gaming world as mere contributors to the community on renowned Flash site Newgrounds. From there, they hit it big with the title Alien Homonid on Gamecube and Xbox Live Arcade and continued to strike oil with Castle Crashers, still widely considered once of the best beat ‘em up party games today. Not straying from the Flash “quick brush” style, the company has become one of the heaviest hitters in the genre with a motif so charming in its simplicity that if any other company were to attempt it, it would come off as lazy. Yet, The Behemoth has defined themselves in artistic style and gameplay so tight and entertaining, their fanbase is always eagerly awaiting whatever the company has to offer next. Their latest? A little game called BattleBlock Theater that has already put them on the map… of the internet.
BattleBlock Theater is an advanced puzzle platformer with all the allure and off-the-wall insanity expected from The Behemoth. The main story (and its wonderfully cast narrator) is so full of the nonsensical humor you’d expect, but done full force to a point where story is forced to take a backseat because it would be too hard to pay attention while trying not to wet yourself laughing. Every line in cutscenes and during gameplay leave you mulling over what was just said seconds after it’s gone by. It’s adorably mental and yet gets the message across without seeming like it’s spoon feeding you tutorials. The game is also designed around the same mechanic: teach by doing, not by explaining and the gameplay is strongly aided by this throughout all of the available modes.
While the story mode is the main attraction, BattleBlock has made sure you’ll being playing long after the final cutscene. Aside from an optional two player co-op mode (which alters the stages slightly to add a team mechanic,) the game is loaded with verses and arena style diversions allowing you to take your skills and put them to the test with local and online friends. Jump in, jump out online allows you to always be playing even if your buddy gets bored and the list of ways to play and the mixing of the genres ensures that there’s something for everyone. The basics like King of the Hill, Verses and Capture the Flag are all there, but some more innovative categories like Paint the Walls and Basketball use mechanics in an unexpected and fun way; and even once the options themselves have lost their style, you yourself can create custom arenas to play every one of them in.
The level editor gives you the freedom of every accessible item in the game from blocks, collectables, enemies, even secrets to make sure you have the ability to make a level or arena as fun as the developers themselves. Although the help section is a bit vague and confusing (I had trouble finding where the diamonds to finish a level were,) the options are numerous enough to where just about anything you want to do with the engine is possible. Experimentation is heavily promoted and everyone can be allowed to download or play in your level if you so choose. I would be careful, however, to not explore this too early on as nothing is locked and you may find spoilers to future mechanics long before you are shown how to use them.
BattleBlock Theater is an exceptional experience full of laughs and tight gameplay. The options given to you are plentiful, creative and addicting and the customization allows you to keep playing after the presets have grown tiresome. There are hundreds of unlockable heads to find and the additional “co-optional” gameplay rounds out the already voluminous gameplay giving you the absolute most for your dollar. The ranking system is a bit clunky as there is no clock to tell you when you’ve achieved the best time for an area, but regardless, the concept extends even the story mode. This game is a must buy if you love nonsense or are looking for a new chaotic party game to play with friends.
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