Battletoads Review (Xbox One)19/08/2020
After a 26 year absence, the Battletoads have returned! Our amphibian heroes are back with another mission, but this time, they’ll have to team up with the evil Dark Queen in order to stop the Topians alien race, led by Uto and Pia, a new threat menacing their lives.
While previous entries in the Battletoads series were focused on being beat’em ups, this reboot is a mish-mash of various genres such as beat ’em up, platforming, puzzle-solving, mini-games, shmup, racing. First, up will be the beat’em up sections. The fighting is pretty basic; mashing the X button will allow you to get through the areas. Rare did add a useful gum ball spitting mechanic which allows players to freeze enemies in place for a short period of time. This is quite useful against enemies who constantly throw projectiles and fast-moving enemies. There’s also a strong attack that allows you to get through blocking enemies’ defense and an attack that lets you throw enemies in the air. You can also dash to avoid enemy attacks; which is a nice addition. You can try and mix up the attacks buttons for combos, but it doesn’t look as fluid as it should.
One of the best strongest points is the fact that if you’re playing solo or with a friend, you can switch between Rash, Zitz and Pimple by pressing the corresponding d-pad arrow (except the shmups and platforming levels). This gives players a chance to try out all three characters and also a lifeline if the current character they are using is near death, they can switch with a full health character. There’s not much difference between all three protagonists in terms of attack other than Rash and Zitz are pretty useless, especially against bosses. Pimple is the muscle of the group and it shows. When using one of the smaller guys against bosses, they’ll barely make a dent in their health bar. The game allows for three players couch co-op, but no online gameplay.
For long-time players who grew up with the NES version of Battletoads will instantaneously recognize the Turbo Tunnel. Thankfully, the levels are a bit easier and instead of constantly increasing speed after every checkpoint like the 1991 version, the obstacles and gaps become more dangerous and will appear slightly quicker. While you can dodge things by moving the joystick, you also dash away to safety with LB or RB which allows your toad to move faster. Instead of splicing the Turbo tunnel level across the game, it’s all in one shot which makes it feel longer than it should/is. Platforming levels are pretty interesting as they are devoid of combat; the only thing to do is avoid spikes and gaps and solve puzzles in order to open doors to progress; pretty simple and fun stuff.
There is a level where you’re riding an NPC like a crazy carpet where you need to press a certain button in order to grind on certain surface types; so if you’re about to jump on an ice platform, you need to press and hold X, sponge surface, Y and carpet surface B; all the while you also need to avoid spikes. It’s an unnecessary and futile exercise is finger flexibility because you still need to press jump when the platform is about to come to an end; while still holding the button corresponding to the surface you’re on. I also shudder to think about how disabled gamers could be able to play such a level.
The game also features a few single-screen twin-stick shooting shmup levels. Instead of progress through a level like most shmups, you’re confined to a single area where you have to move around and dodge enemy fire and incoming enemies as you fire at them with the right joystick. While twin-stick shooting is a bit cumbersome, it takes a while to adapt if you’re not familiar, but once you get a hang of it, it’s enjoyable; although much like the beat’em up levels, at some point you’ll be overwhelmed with enemies and enemy projectiles. You can also pick up power-ups such as a laser or spread fire to help you overcome those more difficult waves of enemies.
Unfortunately, the return of the Battletoads is not without faults. First off, oftentimes during beat’em up and shmup sequences, the screen gets filled to the brim of enemies making it sometimes difficult trying to find yourself, especially in the shmup levels while making it harder during beat’em up sequences because you won’t see the indicator that an enemy is about to attack; let alone see enemies across the screen about to throw something at you. Also, while the game took me about 2 and a half hours to get through, it felt like 10 as some levels feel like a chore to get through. Towards the end, there’s also a very dreadful level where it’s a dashboard of mini-games where you have about a minute to clear 3 or more of the mini-games. The problem with it is that it’s never properly indicated which mini-game you’re on so you have to randomly press button and keep an eye open where things are reacting so you know what to do.
While the game offers so much variety in terms of gameplay, Battletoads follows the rule that the beat’em up genre has little to no replay value. While you can replay the game to collect missed collectibles and attempt harder difficulty settings, there’s no real reason to get through it more than once; especially considering there are really boring/frustrating levels towards the end that once you’ll be done with them, you’ll never want to replay them ever again.
While I wasn’t a fan of visuals when the game was first announced, it grew on me. Battletoads features cartoon-ish hand-drawn visuals; and it’s very colorful and most level features a unique look to it which goes hand in hand with the diverse gameplay. But it might be too colorful for its own good. As aforementioned, sometimes the screen is filled with so many enemies at once that it becomes trippy and frustrating gameplay-wise. Also makes it easy to miss collectibles hidden in the mess. The cutscenes come across as a cartoon and they look great; it could be a great Saturday morning show. The soundtrack is pretty solid. Some tracks will be recognized by players who grew up on Battletoads, but it also features new rock tracks. The main annoyance here is that in beat’em up sequences, the tracks will constantly as when you enter combat, you’ll have a more rock, upbeat song, then once they’re all cleared, it’s a more ambient track. The voiceover work sounds great and each character is pretty entertaining and unique with a tongue in cheek humor.
I went into Battletoads with low expectations and was not impressed. Overall, it’s a fun game experience, despite some of the levels being frustrating and boring which makes the game feel longer than it actually is. It’s not as hard as previous entries and it also lost it’s more serious tone, but the fact that the game jumped from one genre to another, I felt like I was playing Rare’s take on the WarioWare series. Instead of fleshing out parts of the game, it feels all bite-sized. It’s both a good and bad thing. It’s a good thing because it keeps players on their toes and avoids the monotony of certain genres. But it’s also a bad thing because it could’ve been so much more with a much better pacing. Those who are currently subbed to Gamepass will definitely want to give this game a shot. For those not subbed to Microsoft’s streaming service, given the game is 20$ and a month of GP is 10$, it’ll be a better investment to do the latter.
*This Review Code was so generously provided by the publisher for review*