April 13, 2011

PAX East 2011: BattleBlock Theater – Hands-On Preview

BattleBlock Theater


The Behemoth is one of the few developers I can think of with such a strong focus on cooperative games. Sure, the original Alien Hominid was a single player affair, but from then on it seemed as though they were dead-set on creating games that were best played with friends. BattleBlock Theater certainly doesn’t buck that trend, but it’s also quite possibly their best effort to date.

Much like Castle Crashers, the game is made for one to four players. However, it also boasts the largest amount of levels (“100s”), characters and other unlockables of any game in their entire library. The demo we chosen few (thousand) got our hands on at PAX gave us a small taste of everything, with quite a few heads and faces to choose for our little avatars, along with one special weapon. It was also displayed in specially made faux arcade cabinets, which were awesome.


BattleBlock Theater is essentially a platformer, with rather sizable levels requiring you to leap over deadly spikes, run across crumbling platforms, get into fisticuffs with a few enemies, grab gems and utilize temporary power-ups like jetpacks and wings to reach new areas. As a single player affair it’s a fun platformer with some extensive customization options and The Behemoth’s trademark humor and character designs. As a multiplayer affair, it’s one of the most insanely awesome things imaginable. Teamwork is essential if you want to reach most of the gems, and simply getting through some spots is much easier with a friend. Some areas can’t even be accessed unless you toss a friend over to them or use them as an extra step to reach a high ledge. Don’t worry though, you can always reach over the ledge and offer to pull them up once you’re in position.

As with most multiplayer games there is potential to screw each other over, but that’s half the fun. It’s almost too tempting to jump off of a trigger for a bridge right before your friend gets to the end, causing them to plummet to their death. It’s also really easy to accidentally punch each other into beds of spikes. Fortunately there didn’t appear to be a set amount of lives available. Instead, constant deaths just send you back to the last checkpoint, impacting your overall time and your subsequent score. Conversely, if one player is able to make it farther ahead, the deaths of other players will see them spawning next to their far superior buddy. So sometimes it pays to leave ‘em all behind, right?


I wasn’t able to glean much more from my all-too-brief time spent with the game, but I can tell you that it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play with friends. And even assuming that you manage to tear through to the end, you’ll still have plenty to unlock and lots of levels to replay for higher rankings. Unfortunately BattleBlock Theater still seems to be missing a release date, but it’s definitely coming along nicely. I’m hoping we’ll hear something soon, though.


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