Review – Battletoads
I first had the chance to play the brand new version of Battletoads last year, during the 2019 edition of Brasil Game Show. It was a short demo comprised of the game’s first level plus a painfully long and uninteresting hoverbike section, enough to make me not look forward to the final product. It just reiterated my thought that the Battletoads franchise had never been that good to begin with. I considered it one of my least favorite Rare franchises of the past, a series better known for its broken difficulty than its gameplay or presentation. However, I’m glad Rare and Dlala Studios took their time to polish this brand new game. Even though I had little hope for it to deliver, it surpassed my expectations, albeit with a few caveats.
Upon starting the game, I was greeted with the same level I had previously played at BGS, and boy, it was still boring. Sure, the combat felt a bit faster and a bit more impactful, but it was still quite basic and not featuring as many combos as in Streets of Rage 4, for instance. After beating the first boss, all I could think of was “man, the Battletoads are the most overrated gaming characters from the 90’s, without a doubt.” To my surprise, so did the game.
Without trying to spoil the game’s story, this is not a reboot or reimagining of the 90’s games. This is still the same team as before, and the world just doesn’t care about them anymore. People moved on to better and less ridiculous characters to love, and this game basically revolves around the Toads trying to regain their fame and notoriety. It’s almost as if the folks at Rare and Dlala read my mind. I grew up thinking that the Battletoads franchise was an overrated beat ’em up trying to emulate the success of more famous games such as Double Dragon and Final Fight, not to mention the multimedia empire that was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise in the 90’s. This game is basically acknowledging their mediocrity, and I loved it.
The Toads try to act like rad gnarly dudes from the 90’s, only for their jokes to fail miserably. In any other situation, I would have loathed this sense of humor, but it works in Battletoads purely and simply because you’re not supposed to take these guys seriously. It’s as if the Duke Nukem games were aware of how pathetic their protagonist was. The overall sound design is excellent. Not only are the lines of dialogue hilarious, but the soundtrack ended up being a lot heavier and catchier than expected. It’s fittingly largely comprised of re-recorded and rearranged versions of classic Battletoads songs from the 90’s.
I also loved the game’s presentation. Instead of trying to revive the original overly bulky, overly muscular, ‘tude-infested art style from the 90’s, the 2020 version of Battletoads opts for a simpler, goofier, and more over-the-top cartoon style. Almost as if we were playing an Adult Swim cartoon heavily inspired by Ren & Stimpy. The game runs at a smooth 60fps at all times as well.
Gameplay-wise, Battletoads is just decent. There’s nothing terrible about it, everything is as functional as it could be. You have three different characters to choose from, each with different attributes, such as speed and strength. However, due to the game’s chaotic nature, playing as Pimple is basically Battletoads‘ unofficial “even harder” mode, as he is as slow as a truck, even though he is as strong as one. As previously mentioned, the amount of combos you can pull off it adequate, albeit less impressive than what you could find in other games in this genre.
There are also some puzzle sections scattered throughout the stages. They are very simple, requiring little effort in order to be solved. They are not the reason you are playing a Battletoads game for, of course. There are also some short chapters fully comprised of QTE’s, which aren’t an issue at all, surprisingly enough. Finally, there are the dreaded hoverbike sections, making an unwelcome comeback. Even though they are nowhere as frustrating as the sections from the original Battletoads game, let’s just say I would have easily considered this game a much better product if those sections were nowhere to be seen.
The biggest problem with the 2020 version of Battletoads, however, is its lack of online co-op. For reasons beyond my comprehension, there is no online multiplayer whatsoever. You can only play it locally with up to three players. I do appreciate that Rare and Dlala are still keeping the flame of local multiplayer alive, but considering this game was released during the 2020 Covid pandemic, it’s not that simple to invite friends over just so you can play a round of Battletoads altogether. If Streets of Rage 4 could pull it off, so could Battletoads.
All in all, color me impressed, the 2020 version of Battletoads ended up being way better than I could have ever expected. Sure, it’s just an above average beat ’em up when you analyze it technically, but it won me over with its animations, soundtrack, and sense of humor. It knows the franchise has never been that good to begin with, resulting in a neverending barrage of self-aware jokes and meta humoristic situations that made me smile at all times. It’s nowhere near as entertaining as other beat ’em ups released over the past few months, but considering it’s available on Gamepass, I don’t see why you shouldn’t give this one a go. It beats playing the original Battletoads via Rare Replay, that’s for certain.
A playable cartoon with exaggerated animations and a very stable framerate. The animated cutscenes look equally excellent.
Your standard beat ’em up control scheme, with an adequate, albeit unimpressive, amount of combos you can pull off. It also features some simple puzzles to solve and really annoying hoverbike sections.
Some excellent re-renditions of the classic Battletoads tunes in heavy metal form, but what really steals the show is the humorous voice acting. It’s much better than anticipated.
Fun Factor: 7.0
Although Battletoads is just an above average beat ’em up with some great visuals and soundtrack, it won me over with its fantastic sense of humor and brand new take on its characters. I really disliked its nonsensically long hoverbike sections, though.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Battletoads is available now on Xbox One and PC.
Reviewed on Xbox One.