A real throwback of a game, Battletoads comes back in all its beat em up glory. A modern touch went a decent way, and the Toads feel fresher than ever. While it may look crisp and fresh, repetitive combat and a lack of general focus when it comes to dialogue and mini-games leave much to be desired.
Recently, a lot of older game reboots have done very well for themselves, like Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy VII. Battletoads was one of those very memorable NES titles that really brought couch co-op to the mainstream, and was very accessible back then. Of course, the style and dialogue were much different, and this game doesn’t shy away from acknowledging that. Battletoads acknowledges right off the bat that the Toads aren’t that relevant anymore, and the opening segment is incredibly well done. Outside of the combat, the dialogue was pretty witty and the environments were very well done. The environment design in this game is actually exceptional, I found myself just exploring and looking in the background for any little easter eggs (which were nicely handled in the first part), and admiring the scenery. Even the levels after had very well done environments, although they were not as over the top. As far as enemy design and combat go, it gets very same-y after a while. As per beat em up fare, some variants of enemies are just palette swaps of others, and that goes for the first boss as well. The initial designs are varied and comical, but after seeing more than one palette swap of the same enemy it really gets boring.
The combat is pretty fun, and everything is animated very fluidly. The real unfortunate part is that there is really no “expansion” to the combat. You’ve got some bread and butter combos, and it doesn’t really evolve past that. If you’re playing solo you can tag the other Toads in to continue a chain or use a move set that is better fit to the encounter, but generally it doesn’t go far past that. After playing games like River City Girls, I honestly expected some type of progression to unlock combos and other stylish moves; considering this game has a style system a-la Devil May Cry and Bayonetta. Unfortunately, it’s really not much to sink your teeth into. The puzzles are pretty basic hacking and circuit puzzles, and don’t really serve to add much aside from a pace-killer when you’re moving from fight to fight. A cool addition is being able to fight in the background of the stage by using your tongue to swing over, adding a different layer to combat. It can be helpful for evading attacks or just getting your head together before going back to the encounter, but outside of it, it’s really just the exact same combat, just farther away.
Generally, the humor and overall tone of the game tend to either hit really well or fall very flat, and there’s not really much in-between. The opening segment I felt was the strongest, and having the Toads go through their now-changed everyday lives was hilarious, and honestly more of that would’ve been fun to explore. The story really just changed on a dime, and it wasn’t impactful or anything. A bunch of flat jokes and what seemed to be a Pepe Silvia reference and boom, back to action like nothing’s changed. It really just felt out of place, and didn’t flow well with what was going on at the moment. I do have to give credit where it’s due though, and that’s the tone and variety of the Toads in general. They each have very distinct personalities, and it shows in the way they interact with each other and how they play. I feel that’s the biggest step taken with this game, fleshing out these 20+ year old characters and giving them new life through a reboot. While the combat, racing levels, and puzzles might feel a bit outdated, the visuals and animations didn’t disappoint, and honestly left me enjoying the game more than I thought I would even with the gripes I had.
While I did like this game more than I expected, Battletoads left me wanting much more, and unfortunately wasn’t as satisfying to play as it was to watch. I found myself wanting more dialogue and cutscenes than combat, and levels just felt like interim time that I had to slog through to get to the funny parts. Battletoads set up a great looking world and some funny characters, but felt a little too repetitive to play for more than a level at a time without getting bored. I’m hoping for some more modern takes on Battletoads, as with a bit of updating it has the potential to shine as a series again.
Score: 6 out of 10
Reviewed on Xbox One