The story of the Battletoads begins in 1991 where the well-established Rare (formally Rareware) jumped on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bandwagon to create games that the turtles could call its rival. The Battletoads would not shy away from imitating the turtles by being anthropomorphic toads who love to battle, while having that late 80s and early 90s radical attitude. The Battletoads, starring Zitz, Rash, and Pimple would be successful enough to have five of their own games, turn up as guests in several others and even have a TV pilot. The most well-known and notorious title is the original Battletoads and its insane difficulty. As a thirteen year old, I sunk countless hours into the Sega Megadrive version and while I knew the ‘Turbo Tunnel’ like the back of my hand, I could never finish the games final level. Now 26 years since their last adventure, the Battletoads are back to punch, kick and frustrate the player in all the right ways.
In has been 26 years since the Battletoads have been relevant and this is the same notion that the narrative runs with. In the same amount of time the Battletoads have been locked away in an underground simulator and living their best lives. For all this time they had been battling to save the day and be the greatest intergalactic heroes, but paradoxically this was just all in their own heads. The toads are stumbled upon by a local construction worker and therefore forced to return to the ‘real’ world, be nobodies and get meaningless jobs.
It does not take long for the toads to have enough of being nobodies and come up with the idea of finding their old nemesis The Dark Queen to rekindle their feud to save the day and be back on top once more. The only issue is that the Dark Queen herself has also been long forgotten and cast away due to the galaxy overlords, the Topians. So with the Dark Queen’s motives to rid the galaxy of the Topians and the toad’s drive to become heroic Battletoads once again, they team up on an adventure that does not disappoint.
All story cutscenes are presented as a cartoon with developers Dlala Studios, under the supervision of Rare, hiring three TV and animation writers to create this outlandish tale. The writing and presentation blend flawlessly to create one of the wittiest and laugh out loud games I have played in a very long time.
Like the retro games of the past, Battletoads is primarily a Beat’em Up but with a number of other genres and mini games mixed in. It is easy to say that the Beat’em Up sections of this game are astounding and rival the magnificent Streets of Rage 4 that I reviewed and gave a ten earlier this year. While each Battletoad handles at a different speed, the combat always feels fast and furious. Each toad is equipped with a standard, launch and morph attack. The launch attack lifts enemies in the air where the player needs to jump up to continue their combo or does it just to have the enemy out of the way. The morph attack is renowned to series fans, as the Battletoad’s body parts or whole body morphs into items to attack with, such as a mace for a hand, a gigantic human foot to boot enemies across the room and even a jack hammer to pound down from above. These morph attacks change depending on when used in a combo, where the player is located and if the button is held down. Using these three attack buttons, along with the jump and RT quick evade, the player is able to create some spectacular and long combos on multiple enemies at once.
Also in the Battletoad’s arsenal are their tongues. Using the LT and button combinations, their tongues can be used to lasso and pull in an enemy to isolate them or have the player launch at their target to let loose. The toad’s tongues can also be used to traverse between the back and foreground throughout certain sections. It is also used to eat flies for health or pick up collectibles throughout the levels. The LT can also trigger the toad’s mouth to spit bubble gum to stick and freeze enemies for a few seconds. Two lots of bubble gum are available to use and it does not take long for them to replenish.
Even though the combat is similar, each of the Battletoads has a different feel and unique attributes. Sunglasses wearing Rash is the jack-of-all-trades character with medium speed, damage and health. The behemoth and hilarious Pimple is certainly the slowest but has devastating attacks and can take more damage. His air morph combo is extremely effective and can be used to get out of tight spots. The team leader and my favourite Zitz is incredibly fast and creates longer combos, although his damage dealt is less than his ‘brothers’. All toads are a blast to play and pretty quickly players will work out who is best for their play style.
Enemy variety is solid. They range from the typical close range brawling grunts and those who constantly block requiring the player to break it, through to the most annoying are the ranged characters that stand back hurling projectiles. There are other special types, some that are required to be stuck with bubble gum before beaten and others that need to be taken out quickly before they zap the area around them. Like any good Beat’em Up, the player needs to know the strengths and weaknesses of each of these enemies, look for tells, identify whom to tackle first and know when to attack and when to retreat.
The only weakness I found in the Beat’em Up sections were the bosses. While not horrible and also very pretty, they did not require much challenge on the easy and normal difficulty. It was not until the final boss on normal that I actually had to restart a checkpoint.
The series is acknowledged for mixing up the style of gameplay and they do so even more in this game. Apart from some puzzles within the Beat-em Up sections there are many mini game offerings and all seemingly fit well in the story. There are a few platforming sections that take the battle out of Battletoads, but are a fresh change of pace and keep the game’s tight controls. If an error is made during platforming, it is always the player’s fault. The hover bikes return and while not the death filled segments many of us recall, they are super fun and much easier this time round. Although, it can certainly get frustrating on normal and near impossible on the highest difficulty. Other sections include a runner style game where quick reflexes are needed, along with the need to know the colour of the controller buttons. The most frustrating part was the 2D space shooter levels. While I am not that fond of these style of games, it is quite fun on easy, however on the normal difficult it got insane in certain sections. Overall I would say these different gameplay sections make up two fifths of the game, some take a fair bit of trial and error, and while I enjoyed them I was wishing for a little more sweet Beat’em Up action.
Two major things change up this game, difficulty and multiplayer and there are three difficulties to choose from, Tadpole (Easy), Toad (Medium) and BattleToad (Hard). Players need to know that only one difficulty can be chosen on the three save files and that they can not be changed unless you start and new file or delete a previous save file. Of the difficulties, Tadpole is a fun romp and this is probably the best way to play multiplayer, especially the first time and Toad will be hard for the average gamer. While some Beat’em Up sections gave me (a veteran Beat’em Up enthusiast) a decent challenge, it was the runner and 2D shooter sections that literally nearly beat me. Twice during the 2D shooter sections I used the ‘up’ on the d-pad. After a lot of deaths, the player is able to press the d-pad up and activate an invincibility mode where the player will not take damage until the next checkpoint. While it was a last resort, it was one that kept me playing. This invincibility mode is only available in the Tadpole and Toad difficulties. While I did try the BattleToad difficulty, I warn that this is for the best of the best and hardcore gamers.
Multiplayer changes it all up again and it does not always make it easier. When in the single player Beat’em Up sections the player can change between characters on the fly and extend combos by using left, down and right on the d-pad. If a Battletoad goes down, there is a countdown until that toad can be used again but on multiplayer the other players can revive their teammates if they can get there in time. Otherwise the player waits out the respawn timer but if all the other team members go down then everyone restarts at the previous checkpoint. Other sections change in multiplayer like the platforming adding extra players on screen, the many mini games lets players swap turns on the fly and the 2D shooting section has players controlling different parts of the ship and weapons. The hover bikes changes it up the most, as in single player it is the same as the Beat’em Up and the player has 3 toads at their disposal to get to the next checkpoint but in multiplayer, one of the three players must do a perfect run between checkpoints and on normal this is very difficult towards the back end of the game. In saying this, playing with family and friends on the couch is the best way to play; it is difficult on the higher levels but this game has the drive of one more go and easy enough for all on Tadpole difficulty. Sadly and this is the biggest negative of this title is that there is no online options, as the developers say the game is intended to be couch co-op.
The animations of the characters are top notch; it looks better than a Saturday morning cartoon in motion. The hand drawn models, backdrops and worlds are bright and beautiful, just checkout the screenshots and videos.
The soundtrack will be hit and miss depending on the players taste but for me it is close to perfect. While it changes to match the gameplay types and moods, the majority is rock and thrash guitar riffs that just seem to fit. I loved one of them sounding a great deal like Metallica’s Battery. The voice acting and sound editing is incredible and much better than it you would think a 26 year old reboot would be.
Great news for those parents out there, as this is a child friendly game, E for Everyone. It does have cartoon violence and many adult ‘between the line’ jokes though. For those needing to drop and run, players can pause and drop in and out at any time. It is not the longest game though, clocking in at 3 and half hours on Tadpole difficulty and nearly 6 hours on Toad. (Note this can change if the player uses the invincibility option). There is replayability for this game but it is primarily through couch co-op where single player comes down to moving up to the higher difficulties. There are 78 collectibles for those completionist players but they are just cosmetic and achievement related so not everyone will feel the need to return.
Battletoads have been in the shadows for 26 years and this game knows it has some expectation and nostalgia to fill. Like the Battletoads new story line, Dlala Studios and Xbox Games Studios are looking to restore these toads back to the heights of intergalactic heroes. This sequel/reboot is a great addition to the Xbox exclusive library. Newcomers will be happy with the accessibility while veterans of the series have the option to be punished. The action is tight; the change in gameplay predominantly keeps it fresh, while the animations, cutscenes, art style and sound design oozes fun and style, you just wish there was a lot more of it. The toads are back and after this long wait, it is great to see they are ready for the battle once again.
+ Art style, animations and cutscenes.
+ The Beat’em Up tight gameplay
+ Mixes genres and keeps it fresh
+ The humour hits
+ Great sound design
+ Difficulty options
+ Great couch co-op
– No online co-op
– Too short
– Some frustrating genre changes
Pottsy for One More Game
Battletoads was reviewed on an Xbox One X and is available on the Xbox Store and Game Pass from today.
The publisher and Xbox ANZ provided code for this review. Our thoughts on this game are ours and ours alone.