Alternate universes or parallel dimensions must exist. With how crazy things are in the world, we must have jumped into an alternate reality. We have a worldwide pandemic; we’re seeing those sworn to protect murder instead, living through all the countless climate disasters, and even experiencing the early stages of American fascism. One would have to believe that this can’t be the real world, almost as if someone has trapped us in some hellscape. Yet somehow in this messed-up reality we live in, good things shine through, even if they are small and inconsequential to everything happening around us.
What a weird way to start a review, but no joke, Battletoads is a breath of fresh air from all the craziness in this world. If you played any of the Battletoads games from many years ago, understand that this new game is not a reboot. It is more of a sequel where the toads have been freed from a simulator they’ve been trapped in for the last 26 years. At least their simulation was good and not our hell on earth. Coincidentally, this timeline lines up with the previous Battletoads game released in 1994, Battletoads Arcade. The toads have been freed only to find out they are not the huge superstars they thought they were. They end up on a mission to find out who trapped them in that simulator and make a name for themselves once again.
The obvious first thing is the game’s art style. It looks like a fun Saturday morning cartoon with animations almost as fluid as one. At times it’s virtually indistinguishable between gameplay and cutscene. I think it’s gorgeous and fits the tone of the story and the characters very well. If they made an actual cartoon using this style, I’d sit down to watch it.
I mentioned how fluid the animations were, the game runs smooth as butter, and it’s apparent in those solid animations. Battletoads has always had this body-morphing attack style where the character’s fists become large, or feet become huge to deliver a final blow in a combo. With this new art style, things are even more detailed, and it looks fantastic. The smoothness of these transitions between attacks is so satisfying to watch.
The same can be said for the stages in Battletoads, things are happening in the backgrounds, and the scrolling to new areas feel natural for stopping points to battle. Most of the levels follow your traditional beat’em up format; the screen will scroll then pause for you to battle a group of enemies or bosses. I felt as if the camera had been pulled closer to the action than in previous iterations. Because of it being so tight, the action can feel pretty tense. Especially when there is a screen full of enemies to fight, add in the fact that each enemy also has their own beautifully crafted attack animations, and you can easily lose track of where you’re at.
The combat is standard fare beat’em up action. Combo together a few light hits and end with a heavy attack. You also get the option of doing a shield busting charge attack or partake in some air juggling. The pace can be slow unless you utilize the tongue grapple. Your toad’s tongue works as a lasso to either bring enemies close to you or you to them. This, in turn, considerably sped up the combat and kept me engaged from enemy to enemy.
Battletoads does something different though; they throw in some curve-balls to keep the beat’em up action fresh. On some levels, you’ll encounter some puzzle mini-games to break up the monotony of the fights. Honestly, I could take or leave these. None of them were any good, but at least they gave it a shot, and they weren’t terrible. You’ll also find that They’ve included various stages that represent different genres of games. From quick time events to railcar escapes, to even a bullet hell shooter, the game throws some crazy stuff at the player, things you’d not expect to see.
The hoverbikes do return from the original games, and they are long. I mean very long. After playing through the first one, which you’ll encounter, not even 10 minutes into the game, my first thought was how there would be a group of people who end up quitting in the middle of it. I wouldn’t say it’s as hard as the original on NES, but it is tricky; nonetheless, it’s just quite long. What makes this version a little nicer to play is the fact that you’re driving from behind the back rather than side-scrolling. Making your planning of the course ahead, that much better.
The game can be played in co-op with up to two of your friends. If you’re playing alone, you’re free to switch between the toads at any time. Each one has a different style of play, too, giving some variety to the combat. You’ll have the fast, but light attacks of Zitz, the heavy but slow attacks of Pimple and, the cool sunglass-wearing Rash is in-between. Unfortunately, there is no online co-op; it is strictly couch co-op only. I applaud them for including the local play but seem a little short-sighted to leave out your online friends.
There isn’t much to hate about this latest Battletoads; I found it a lot of fun. But I know that the humor will get on some people’s nerves and you’ll have a group of people out there that feel the combat is too repetitive. Oh, and of course, the lack of online co-op will upset some folks. But even with all that, I still feel as if Battletoads is a great way to spend your afternoon. Not to mention, it’s on Xbox Game Pass, so if you already subscribe, there’s nothing to lose by giving it a try. It’s crazy to think that after all these years, that there would be a good Battletoads game. Maybe we’re the ones stuck in a simulation, trapped in an alternate universe where Battletoads is good, and the world around us is terrible. If that’s the case, then let me out, let me out now. Just let me sneak a copy of this game with me, though, ok?
A Microsoft / Xbox Store code was provided in advance by Microsoft / Xbox for review purposes