It's amazing what independent developer, The Behemoth, was able to accomplish with only two downloadable games. They can probably take most, if not all, of the credit for making downloadable arcade games what they are today. No longer are XBLA or PSN games something to ignore, both services are now offering some of the industries best games such as Journey on PSN and Braid on XBLA. The Behemoth made this statement with 2008's Castle Crashers, a game I enjoyed very much and a game I consider one of the best on XBLA. After several delays, The Behemoth's BattleBlock Theater is finally out. Is it better than Castle Crashers? No. Is it still a great game? Yes.
BattleBlock Theater is a 2D platformer in the same vein as Super Meat Boy, minus the fast paced trial and error aesthetic. BattleBlock plays at a normal pace with obstacles that require you to think for a few, but nothing that will make you bash your skull in out of frustration. The controls were not a problem in this 2D platformer. I found the controls to be quick and responsive, especially when I had to double jump to avoid certain death.
Humor has played a big part in all of The Behemoth's games. How can anyone forget the crapping deer in Castle Crashers? That level of humor is present in BattleBlock as well, by way of the narration in the games story mode. Though I never busted out laughing, I found myself amused and occasionally smirking at the narrators corky lines of dialogue. In terms of narrative, the story is just there to support what your are doing and the location. You are imprisoned and have to make your way through different cells block, each of which contain a certain number of levels. Each level contains gems and a ball of yarn that you may want to collect in order to purchase items and achieve a higher grade rank in a level.
It surprised me just how much content BattleBlock has to offer. Not only does it offer a story mode with over 80 levels, it also has a co-op mode with another 80+ levels. Admittedly, most of my time with the game was solo, but the time I spent in co-op seemed fun, even if we did spend most of the time sabotaging one another to death. BattleBlock also has a ton of customizable character heads which you purchase with the gems you collect throughout levels. Each of which is more adorable than the last one you unlock. You can also buy or trade new weapons with friends online.
One of main emphasis in the game is the arena modes. There are 8 or so different competitive modes that up to 4 players can compete in. I found about half of them to be throw away modes and the rest seemed like the modes that people would more often play. King of the Hill just about works in every competitive game including this one, which requires your to hold a certain area all while the other players try to knock you out of the hill. Color The World is a mode that has your painting the blocks around a level to your teams color, who ever painted the most at the end wins. With a big focus on the arena modes, it's unfortunate that The Behemoth left out any type of host migration system. I hardly ever completed a full match online due to the host quitting because his team was losing, and when that happens you don't get the win under your belt which is a major issue.
BattleBlock Theater is a great game with an abundance of content to make the purchase a justifiable one. There is no shortage of ways to play this game whether it be cooperatively, competitively, or solo; you'll always have a way to play, things to collect, and items to collect. I would advise you to purchase it with a friend as you'll get more out of it in the long run.
This review is based on a final Xbox Live Arcade version of BattleBlock Theater provided by The Behemoth.