The 1 to 5 on games: Battletoads (2020)

This format is a shorter, more to the point, off-shot of the normal review/op-eds I normally do. A ranking will be given at the end from a scale that starts at (from the lowest to the highest): Bad – meh – fine – good – great. Anything not appropriate for these “scores” will likely warrant a more in-depth discussion, which is what I normally do, so this range does not cover all games, just the ones that I think are suited to this format.

When you’re rebooting/remaking something, there are two important questions to ask first: What do you keep and what do you modernize. Battletoads answer to these questions are that, they keep the hard as nails challenge, the variety of minigames, the focus on beat’em up as the main genre, and the Toads tude; they modernize the look and style of the game, they add the more modern 2.5D perspective, and they adopt a “Saturday morning cartoon” aesthetic to their writing, animations, and cutscenes to create a different experience. I’m happy to say that most of these decisions pay off for Dlala studios, but there are a few noteworthy, and potential detrimental, missteps.

Set 26 years after the events of the original game, where the Toads have been trapped in a fantasy simulating bunker living oblivious to that fact, until they are released and need to find a way to become famous again. I’m going to refrain from talking about the story all that much, not because of fear of spoiling a great story, but because the best part of this game is the stylish and efficient aesthetics applied to the campaign; Battletoads goes after the “Saturday morning cartoon” gimmick and nails it to perfection. Everything from the comedy, to the animation, and the characters are extremely likeable and funny in that context and where a real motivator/highlight of every level. In-between those cinematics are acts and levels that showcase some brilliant and faulty moments that characterize the game. On the one hand, you have the incredible variety of mini-games and their effective usage; some are comedic bits and are quite funny; some are hard challenges and (especially in co-op) will test the players skill in a satisfying and fun way. On the other hand, you have the “core” gameplay focus of the beat’em up, which is generic and dull, as well as having serious readability issues with the new 2.5D perspective that had me locked in animations doing combos just out of reach of an enemy.

Essentially, the last paragraph is all you need to know about the game; it looks great and has a surprisingly effective gimmick for the campaign, but beyond that for every great moment, there’s a bad one to go with it. For example, while the game manages to pay homage to the mini-game variety of the original gracefully, the difficulty of those mini-games is all over the place; some are way too easy, while others had me literally searching for videos and mimicking moves to get through stages. While I am full of praise for the pacing of the game, when a mini-game hits that I don’t care for or there’s a sudden spike in the difficulty the game feels like it gone on for hours when its only been 20 minutes. For every decent track, there’s an equivalent bad one; for every interesting level, there’s a generic one; for every collectible or moment where the 2.5D perspective makes sense, a moment of frustration because you died punching the air next to the enemy.

As a Gamepass game, this is a no brainer to play, but even as a purchase for 20 euros I would still recommend it just for the delightful experience of the style being nailed, the mini-games and pacing, and how fun it can be in co-op; however, there are problems with it that I think will piss many people off for good. Overall, it’s a GOOD game and I would like to see more of the Toads with the same style and creativity, but maybe with .5 less Ds, a more interesting combat mechanic, and a more consistent challenge curve.

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