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.
Xbox Game Pass (opens in new tab)Bottom line: Many of Battletoads' design sensibilities may seem archaic in 2020, but that was ultimately Dlala trying to build on the chaotic formula set by the original. Battletoads struggles as a single-player game but soars as a varied couch co-op experience party game for up to three friends. And hey, it's often laugh-out-loud funny too.
- Oftentimes hilarious writing
- Solid beat 'em up combat
- Co-op mini-games make it a great party piece
- Rockin' sound track
- Without friends (or alcohol) the mini-games are tedious
- Brawler segments are too brief
What I loved about Battletoads
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.
|Publisher||Xbox Game Studios|
|Genre||Beat 'em up, various|
|Platforms||Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC|
|Players||3-player local co-op|
|Length||3.5 hours on normal difficulty|
|Xbox Game Pass||Yes|
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
Back to the future
While some things deserve to stay in the past, it's awesome to see Battletoads back in the spotlight after so long. Aspects of this game are certainly on the budget-end of things, but as a drunken party game for a few pals, Battletoads delivers.
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 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 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
I'm literally not talking about Battletoads, I'm talking about Richard Loveridge and his "opinions".
"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... :)
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. :)
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...
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.