Also On: PC
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Developer: Dlala Studios, Rare
About 25 years ago, a little game hit the Nintendo Entertainment System called Battletoads. Originally planned to cash in on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle craze, where martial artist amphibian warriors save the world, it quickly became a legend as being one of the more difficult NES games to master. A few sequels made it to other Nintendo and Sega consoles throughout the ’90s, even with a short lived Double Dragon team Up. Nothing has been seen of the Battletoads outside of a guest appearance in The Xbox One version of Killer Instinct, and countless internet memes, until now! Finally we now have a true sequel to the original Battletoads game from 1991, and despite initial impressions, is actually pretty cool!
Apparently, after their battle with the Evil Queen 25 years ago, the Battletoads, Zitz, Rash and Pimple, (yes, those are their real names) disappeared from the public eye. No one knew where they had gone or what happened to them, and ultimately forgot about them altogether. Turns out, they were locked away in a Virtual Reality simulation bunker that, to them, was reality. They lived as Super Heroes and were worshiped by all, until one day where the bunker was found by a construction crew and the Toads were released. With the world not remembering them, they are forced to get real jobs and put aside the hero work, but Rash gets the idea to find the Evil Queen and restart their battle from the past so they can be famous again. Turns out they find more then they bargained on. I don’t want to spoil the rest, but the story gets wackier from here.
The art style used here was a large issue with many players who saw the initial trailers and videos. Many claimed it looked to corny and weird, but after playing the final product, I can say it’s actually very well done. It may not appeal to some, but it’s really not as bad as some folks made it out to be, especially when everything is presented together. It may take time to grow on you, but eventually it will.
The main focus of the game is to guide the 3 toads to victory through waves of strange and gross enemies in intense belt-scroller action. One player can switch between the 3 Toads at anytime, or up to 3 players can control them all at once. The fighting is off the wall, with the Toads having some of the most bizarre fighting moves of any other belt-scroller. Ranging from turning into a train to mow down a pack of enemies, to having your hand transform into a chicken for a Super Chicken Uppercut! The enemies you meet are no slouch in the weirdness department either, and range from silly, to downright gross. No matter their looks, and quirks, you will enjoy pummeling each and every one of them! Fight your way through 3 or 4 stages in a world and then fight an over the top boss character. Each Boss has a pattern and, with a bit of practice, you can defeat them with ease.
I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention that… The Hover Bikes are back. However, they aren’t as soul crushingly difficult as they were in the original game. The Hover Bike stages are challenging, but you won’t break your controller with rage like so many other players have in the past. You’ll find that this, and other areas of the game are very fair with the difficulty with many checkpoints scattered throughout a stage.
The controls will take a little while to get used to, especially on the Xbox One Version. While basic navigation, dodging and fighting work smooth, some of the button combinations take a bit of timing to pull off. Specials are mapped to LT while pressing a face button, and while some of these work every time, some of them will take a few presses to execute. Combos where you have to press two face buttons at the same time are a little harder to execute and sometimes won’t work unless you press them in a specific way. With time and practice, you can master most of the special moves, while others you may never use because trying them will get you killed. Using your tongue to catch flies for health, to pull in enemies or to swing from the foreground takes a combo of LT, a face button and aiming with the left stick. It’s awkward but It can be mastered once you’ve been playing for an hour or so. The control issues don’t apply to the PC version since you can customize every control to your liking, but with the Xbox One version there is no option to customize.
Visually, the game is remarkably impressive once you soak in the art style. Initial reactions may be on the negative side at first, but as you get into it you will begin to appreciate everything. The animation is very fluid and constantly runs at 60fps, even in 4K. The cut scenes that explain the ridiculously funny story are fully animated and voiced, making it feel like an interactive cartoon series. The music, and sound effects are perfectly matched to the insane settings you will fight in, while all the characters (including the Toads themselves) are given perfect voices that fit their personalities.
We’ve waited 25 years for a proper Battletoads sequel, and Rare finally delivered. It’s art style may put off some players in the long run, but the overall solid game play can hook you quickly. If you can overlook the slightly strange control combos, you will have fun playing through this alone or with friends with local co-op. It definitely won’t appeal to everyone, but I can recommend giving this one a try, even if it’s through Xbox Game Pass. Once you play it for yourself, you are likely to see it’s charm.
Note: Microsoft provided us with a Battletoads Xbox One code for review purposes.