Battletoads Xbox review: A brief budget brawler with party potential

Should this amped amphibian brawler have stayed in the past?

Battletoads Review
(Image: © Windows Central)

I quite honestly never thought this would happen. But here I am, in 2020, reviewing a new Battletoads game. All those calls to Gamestop clearly paid off.

Battletoads is a classic Rare franchise known for its unforgiving difficulty and outlandish beat 'em up world, and it defied genre conventions starting in 1991 by mashing up several together into a single package. It somewhat worked back in the day, but what about in 2020?

Battletoads is a special franchise that clearly has lasting appeal, but this budget brawler could've benefitted from a greater emphasis on the parts it does best.

What I loved about Battletoads

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Battletoads packs with it tons of nostalgia. Building on the expectations of original fans while trying to marry it with modern expectations is often a tough deal. The 2020 game succeeds in some areas, but a lot wrong with the game should've stayed in the past.

The best part of Battletoads 2020, for me, was how Dlala managed to bring strong characterization to Zitz, Pimple, and Rash. It managed to do this not only through the game's writing and surprisingly hilarious cutscenes but also by giving each character unique playstyles.

Rash plays like an all-rounder, with a desperation to be "cool," while often failing at it. Pimple is the designated heavy, with ironically peaceful sensibilities, and Zitz sees himself as their tactical leader, with more rapid combos.

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DeveloperDlala Studios
PublisherXbox Game Studios
GenreBeat 'em up, various
PlatformsXbox One, Xbox Series X, PC
Players3-player local co-op
Length3.5 hours on normal difficulty
Xbox Game PassYes

The game's levels are split up by surprisingly great story beats that are filled with fourth-wall smashing quips, 90s references, and self-referential deprecative humor. It genuinely felt like something I'd likely see on Cartoon Network or Netflix, and it's something Microsoft should look into commissioning more. Extra points from Windows Central for the Zune reference, Dlala.

Battletoads is on Xbox Game Pass and supports local co-op, making it an awesome party game experience. The sheer volume of mini-games and genre types inside this game is dizzying, and it gets even more rage-inducingly fun when you play on maximum difficulty. Many of the mini-games rely on all players to cooperate to solve timed puzzles, navigate rapid turbo bike segments, or brave dangerous platformer mazes. There's even a gauntlet segment where you ride on an alien diplomats corpse as a sled. You know, for reasons.

Battletoads Review (Image credit: Windows Central)

Battletoads Review (Image credit: Windows Central)

Source: Windows Central

Where the original Battletoads performed best was in its beat 'em up segments, which elevated the original 90s formula with more complex mechanics and wild alien enemies. Each toad has its own move set, which lets you air juggle mobs, grab them across the map with your tongue, and smash them with powerful combos.

The responsiveness and overall feel of the combat is great, occasionally topped off with complex boss battles that, even on normal, gave me Cuphead vibes for their unforgiving complexity. Many regular fist-fodder required specific counters, and some degree of trial-and-error to learn your way through the sequences. As a result, it's a bit frustrating that these brawler segments were so few and far in between.

What I disliked about Battletoads

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Battletoads starts off strong, with wild beat 'em up combat, an upfront boss battle, and a few small co-op mini-games here and there that give you a breather. Towards the end, though, it almost feels like the game was like a motorbike with an empty tank — running on fumes.

I realize this is how the original was, but it feels like this is an aspect of the game that should've been left in the 90s, especially given how much more polished the game's brawler segments are. They simply seem to have far more investment behind them. In one of the final acts, you're hit with a barrage of genre segues that feel like they would've been more at home on Newgrounds' Flash web games section rather than on my Xbox or PC.

The shmup levels are pure tedium, filled with copy-pasted sprites that look like they took a few minutes to whip up. They intersect with long platforming segments completely devoid of enemies, which is at total odds to the excitement and frenetic action of the earlier levels.

It reminded me of the last two episodes of Evangelion where the studio ran out of money, and just put a bunch of rambling sketches on-screen and hoped nobody would notice. I'm not necessarily blaming Dlala for it either. I can't help but feel like Microsoft couldn't have invested a bit more to help the latter half of the game shed some of its warts.

Should you buy Battletoads?

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

I played through Battletoads with my brother, who is more of a fan of the original than myself. He was super happy with the game and felt that it remained true to the original NES classic with its wild genre variance and tough vehicular segments. If you're a fan of the original, maybe you'll feel that way too. For me, though, the peaks and troughs of the game's quality almost gave me whiplash.

Warts notwithstanding, Dlala proved that Battletoads deserve to return.

The high-quality writing and characterization, the complex brawler segments, and the fun mini-games like the exciting turbo bike segments had us laughing out loud, and writhing in that uniquely enjoyable gaming frustration in equal measure. The weaker elements, like the dull platforming segments and the snooze-worthy flat shmup segments, had me almost falling asleep, begging to be sent back to another beat 'em up segment.

Battletoads is a solid 3-4-hour Xbox Game Pass party game experience, especially if you play on its hardest, most painfully-rewarding difficulty with friends (even better if you include alcohol). That said, unless you're a die-hard Battletoads fan, I'm not sure solo players will get much out of it, even in Game Pass.

Perhaps the best thing about Battletoads is the life Dlala breathed into these characters, which began their existence as primordial pixels on an 8-bit system decades ago. With a bit more focus, and a bit more budget, I could easily see Dlala's Battletoads becoming a staple Game Pass franchise someday. Warts notwithstanding, Dlala proved that Battletoads deserve to return.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • I am the battletoads are back! Hopefully this game does well,and we can get a sequel or they add online co-op. Excited to play this tomorrow! Now I need phil to give us Banjo 3.
  • Still not understanding the lack of XBL during a pandemic. I won't be able to play this with the friend that I wanted to for who knows how long now. I guess we could be like everyone else and be selfish and hang out anyway, but doing the right thing sucks.
  • I forgot to mention, great review @Jez. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the Xbox two podcast.
  • Ditto. Thanks Jez.
  • After playing though most of the first act today I can tell the alcohol that you kept mentioning throughout your review must gave been prevelant and quite abundant. 😜 I can't say I agree with your review of the combat. Maybe it is just the PC version, but it seems to run real slow. It's almost to the point of being annoying to play. I think the combos are pretty good, but the walking or even the running is painfully slow and the animations seem to hold back the combat at times. It seems like a not very optimized game. As far as the extra stuff, I totally agree. I am only nearing act 2 and I'm sick of it. I had hoped for so much more than this. I guess I should have known better.
  • Having now played through some of those same levels on my Xbox, I can say that this version is performing way better than my PC game version. This makes the game much more fun and fluid feeling in the combat. It is still a tad slow. I need to play past the first act to see the whole game.
  • Reviews for this game are all over the board. I'm looking forward to trying it. Never played the first one, but because I have GamePass I can give it a go and see if it tickles me in the right places.
  • The great thing is you can try the first one on Rare Replay which is part of Game Pass.
  • I had a great time with it though it can be fairly difficult in places and you have to have a wide appreciation of different game types for this to stick. It is very high quality though which surprised me.
  • Similar to Streets Of Rage 4. It's only going to appeal to older gamers. I actually think Battle toads is far superior to the Streets Of Rage 4 game recently. More diverse and less repetitive. Now I loved Streets Of Rage 4. So I'm not complain about that game. But Battletoads is more fun overall. If you liked the former, you'll love the latter.
  • Wooooow, thats the exact opposite reaction I had to SoR4 and I never played any of the previous ones. I was a big Battletoads fan as a kid (though I never got past the bikes I believe). Sure SoR4 is just fighting, but do we really need minigames? The fighting in SoR blows this release out the water, making it a far superior game overall. Then again, thats my opinion (though I have a feeling thats the majority).
  • That was never what Battletoads was all about to me. It was about all the different types of modes. I like SoR4. I finished it several times. But I felt it needed more. Just got repetitive to quickly. Battletoads is just more enjoyable to play several times through. I liked both as a kid. So I don't really mind these old school type of games. I thought the animations and visuals were better in Battletoads though.
  • I dont remember any QTEs in the original. 😜
  • I really enjoyed SOR4, played through it a couple of times. so hopefully I enjoy Battletoads too, I'm going to give it a run tomorrow.
  • @Richard
    "I actually think Battle toads is far superior to the Streets Of Rage 4"
    But of course. One is made by MS the other is not. lol
    Out of curiosity, did you ever make a post where you said a non-MS game is better than a MS game or a game with a partnership with MS?
  • I was thinking that, but I didnt go there. I figured you would take that off my hands. 😉
  • @Guest_Aotf,
    I agree with Richard. I loved SOR4 but it was short, and repetitive. Battletoads was a more interesting experience, the cut scenes and overall production was more elaborate than SOR4 as well, which had flat, comic book like cut scenes. It was fun unlocking the classic sprite, but it ended after about a week of play. BT I'll be coming back to trying to find all the collectables within the levels, The fighting system is also more frenetic in BT, and it's more rewarding to combo stack. Another interesting thing is in Solo play, you can switch between Toads on the fly so playing through the game's story gels better because you a literally playing as all 3 toads as you go. The soundtrack is also excellent just like SOR4, which many of remixed covers of songs from the older games (people will IMMEDIATELY recognize the first state music if they've ever played BattleManiacs) Yeah, all and all, Richard is spot on
  • @Tyga
    I'm literally not talking about Battletoads, I'm talking about Richard Loveridge and his "opinions".
  • Hahahahaha. He's like a fly you can't get out your hair. Lol. Honestly Guest? I think you should find some friends in real life. You spend way to much time on Xbox sites slagging off Xbox fans. Again. You can't help yourself. Now you have a side kick to. I have 0 interest in explaining my opinion. Your no different to the left, who demand everyone thinks and acts like them. Give it a rest. Go and play your Playstation. And just leave the Xbox community alone. I come to WC because I like Xbox. I wouldn't come here if I didn't. Unlike people like yourself. Who stealth pretend to play Xbox, but hide under the mantra of "I gotta tell a company when I ain't happy". Which is 100% of the time Guest. You can BS other Sony fans on here. But not me. It's plain obvious. Your always the cause of arguments on WC and Xbox articles. Every single argument involves you. Every single one. That tells everyone the absolute truth of your visits here.
  • this, all of this
  • @Richard
    "much time on Xbox sites slagging off Xbox fans"
    Actually no. I don't slag off Xbox fans, but blind company fanboys. And there is a difference. I totally respect fans who give their honest opinion (like Jez did in this review).
    What I want to bring forward is company fanboys who do what they do. Blind fanboyism... I am in no way criticising battletoads as I haven't played it. "Who stealth pretend to play Xbox,"
    I don't pretend to play Xbox. I haven't played "Xbox" this generation. I don't own a XB1, but I do own a 360. Plus I did buy & play MS games this generation. Funny thing is that I bought box version of QB, Sunset Overdrive and Recore for PC. Also got the collector's edition of Ori's sequel on XB1. So if you want I can easily prove that with pictures if you want. ;) Now, not every argument involves me. I stay clear of many. For example, here I'm not talking about battletoads. I'm just pointing the obvious about you and your posts. If that post exposes you & your so-called opinion and it makes you look like a company sheep, it's not really my problem. If you're not happy to read my truth maybe it's time for you to not do what you do and be more honest. That's all. I came here to get honest opinions about the game because this is potentially something that I could buy and enjoy. I didn't really want to post anything but then I saw that you posted and I just knew what it would be all about. You complained about how SoR4 was repetitive, well your posts are repetitive too. I replied to you to discredit you (obviously) but also in the hope that you'll be more honest in the future, don't base your opinion on company lines... But that's asking for way too much... :)
  • Then explain why for no apparant reason your 'AGAIN' feeling the need to not comment in the article. But the need to comment on someone else's opinion which had nothing at all to do with you. In fsct you only referenced my opinion and nothing about the gane whatsoever. It's so obvious why your here and the way your brain works. I have no interest in your Facist behavior. Forcing others to have your opinion.
  • "need to comment on someone else's opinion"
    Not just anybody's opinion. The fake "opinion" that is only here to promote MS products... :)
    I'm not forcing anyone to have my opinion, I'm for people's opinion, and want to expose company fanboys pretending to give a real unbiased opinion when they are clearly here to promote the company they worship. :)
  • I'm here on an Xbox site. Because I like Xbox. You know, I'm not on Playstation sites posting negative comments and enticing arguments with all their fans like yourself. Grow up a bit. Your as bad as all those Sony fans following Xbox Twitter accounts posting negative comments all the time. Luckily some sites are taking action against people like yourself.
  • Grow up?
    See the difference here is that I don't worship a company or a brand. I'm a fan of GAMING.
    So I will praise or criticise any brand or company if I think what they do is anti-gaming. And that's where people like you can't understand me. I don't care either way. You? You MUST promote MS and it's products no matter what. Here you criticise SoR4 over battletoads. The other day you criticised Hollow knights over Ori. There is a pattern in whatever you post.
    Me? I didn't get involved in the comparison between SoR4 and battletoads. And in the other thread I said I preferred Ori overall. You see, the problem here is that you have a clear fanboy agenda and that is to promote MS and it's products. I didn't come here criticising MS or battletoads, I came in here criticising fanboyism, fake biased opinions that pretends to be genuine, that is just meant to influence opinion and mislead others... You want to talk about people always criticising products polluting comments section? I can call you hypocrite because you're doing exactly the same thing when you always praise and promote the company you worship. Here I called you out your fanboyism. Instead of thinking about it and maybe try to change your fanboyism ways and try to be more honest with your opinions, you decided to attack me with bs assumptions and baseless accusations... That really says a lot about you. Not about me... I like honesty and honest people. Your constant lies and bs is toxic to me... PS: I didn't read the post of the link. I don't care what happens in places I don't posts...
  • Dear god. Seriously Sony Guest give it a rest. Noone cares about your opinion on the opinion of others. Go play your Playstation and leave others alone. I couldn't care less about your Xbox negativity. And your appraisal of peoples opinions on this site. Interestingly on the Windows and Xbox Store for games Battletoads has a higher star rating than SoR4 by the users. Pretty much stating the same things. More diversity. Better campaign and story. That's a new one. Fans of Xbox posting on an Xbox page are somehow baiting Sony people like yourself. Bravo Sony Guest. That's a new low for Sony fanboys.
  • Totally agree, SoR4 is enjoyable but this game is far more ambitious, had a great time playing it!
  • Couldn't disagree more. Just finished the game and had a blast though it is brutally difficult especially the runner and shmup sections but I don't think it should be marked down for difficulty. I thought it did all of it's sections well, there were about a dozen different game types and they all were about a 7 or 8 out of 10 but the sum of the parts are better than the individual components.
    Super surprised by the quality of the gameplay, animations and controls, wasn't expecting that. I would give it a 8 out of 10 and would recommend it to anyone who likes difficult games with good humour and great art.