Battleblock Theater Preview

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 24th Mar 2011


Battleblock Theater is a co-operative / competitive platformer video game created by Behemoth Studios -- the same blokes who brought us Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers -- and its premise is based around a mysterious character named Hatty who has kidnapped the player's friends, and it is up to the player to rescue them through a series of trials.

"Having been shipwrecked on a mysterious island, you find yourself both betrayed by your best friend Hatty and captured by the locals. All of this is happening while you are being forced into deadly performances. This however, is just the start of your problems," is how the official description of the game reads, and what seems like a simple game quickly evolves into a game whose challenges are almost completely dictated by who you happen to be playing it with.

After you create your character you use a simple control scheme -- consisting mostly of running, jumping, punching and firing a weapon -- and a more complex set of move solutions that are based upon the assistance of your partner, if you have it -- more on that in a bit...

Different weapons in the game have different effects, ranging from explosive devices to effect inducing objects, while the environment in each level can be filled with different types of blocks, including ones that self-destruct and ones with spikes, as well as hazards such as water and laser cannons, steep drops, acid pools, and other ways to die a gruesome death.

Into the mix are a variety of game types or modes, with each having a primary focus -- like King of the Hill, Object Collecting, and Player vs. Player on the order of Spy vs. Spy (if you are old enough to remember that comic strip).

Now picture a colorful and sound-filled world that has a very basic attraction that makes immersion rather quick, and you have a pretty good idea of the game.

Hands On Mayhem

When you find yourself moving from booth to booth at events the size of PAX East there is a natural tendency for your attention to be grabbed by the big studio offerings -- and not just because they have the larger exhibits and more bells, whistles, and booth babes... Well, OK, maybe because they have booth babes, but still!

In spite of this natural phenomenon, smaller titles with less showmanship on the floor can and often do sneak up on you and mug you in a creative way, and Battleblock Theater is one such title, though probably not for the reason you are thinking.

When I approached the game booth I was actually alone, as we had split-up the assignments on the floor, and the team had scattered to the four corners, and as a result, I was paired-off with a colleague from another paper for the hands-on playtime in the game that would be our introduction.

At this point I knew less than nothing about the game -- not even as much as is contained in the Introduction section above -- and my impressions were being formed as I played.

The way that Battleblock Theater works is that it takes two players -- because you need a partner to get through some of the sections of the levels -- a partner who can throw you over a ledge or boost you up, that sort of cooperative play being absolutely critical at certain points.

Battleblock is a platformer built along classic lines, and its challenge is the often complex environments that are part obstacle course, part puzzle, part very deadly area, so having a mate there to have your back is a really good idea.

As we worked our way through the levels everything was going well -- I thought -- and then at a critical juncture my partner (a perfect stranger to me I should add) threw me over a cliff, killing me.