“Super Meat Boy”. “Little Big Planet” and “Mario”. These are probably the three things that come to mind when you hear the words “modern platformer”. While it is upsetting to see that the scarcity of the genre has raised to a level where less than a handful of modern titles within it come to mind, after five long years of development, players have a new game to add to that list.
Showing its hilarity as soon as you start the game, Battleblock Theater immediately reveals to you what its objective is: fun! And what it sets out to do it accomplishes.
The story starts off with the player on a boat full of friends, but after a sudden storm, the boat wrecks on the shore of an island that happens to hold BattleBlock Theater, a place that is at first shrouded in mystery that slowly unveils itself over time. BattleBlock Theater is run by sadistic cats who wish for nothing but to watch their prisoners suffer from severe pain while running through obstacle courses. And it just so happens that you and all of your friends are prisoners… Except for one… Hatty. Hatty Hattington is touted as the “friendliest of friends” by the narrator who successfully makes this tale an entertaining one to hear. But unfortunately, those evil cats put an evil hat on Hatty that makes him — well, that isn’t really made clear. But the cats look to him as their leader. So the main goal is to save Hatty, and any other friends you can.
BattleBlock Theater takes the best of both Super Meat Boy and Little Big Planet. Offering the precision and hectic nature of Super Meat Boy, while including the creativity, checkpoints, and level-building elements of Little Big Planet. All of this adds up to make the best platforming experience in years. And one of its strongest points is its pacing.
While it does start off a little slow, you’ll be thanking the game once you get to the tougher portions that come later on. BattleBlock Theater slowly gives you a familiarity of each of its many elements. Whether the elements be spinning saw blades or deadly lasers. Over the time of the game, these elements will slowly build up into utter chaos that will be a test of even the best player’s skill.
And this is just the single player game. Beyond that is a complete two-player co-op mode that can be played either locally or online that — while they still look similar — has fundamentally different levels that put an emphases on cooperative play.
In addition to that, there’s a full-blown competitive multiplayer mode. This competitive mode also known as “The Arena” features eight different games-types that can be played with up to four players either divided into teams or played free-for-all style. And best of all, each and every one of these match-types are a lot of fun to play. The only unfortunate bit is that there aren’t that many people searching for “quick-matches”. Meaning you’ll probably have to recruit a few friends to play with.
And perhaps most exciting of all there is a full map creator. Because the game is built around blocks that do different things, building maps is simpler than it is in most games. Maps are easy to share, and if Little Big Planet is any indication, the addition of this map creator all but guarantees that there will be a huge amount of content for this game for years to come, for no additional charge.
With its great sense of humor and precise mechanics, BattleBlock Theater is one of the best platformers of this generation. And, it makes me smile just thinking about its ending. It’d be a shame for anyone to miss out on such a great package.
Editor's note: And if you do buy it, play it online for Pete's sake!