I’ve never played the NES Battletoads games…well that’s not exactly true. I did play the Battletoads/ Double Dragon game once at a friend’s house. To me, the Battletoads were a poor man’s TMNT, kind of like the Biker Mice from Mars, Street Sharks and Bucky ‘O Hare.
To be honest, I’m still not completely over that line of thought. I obviously love the TMNT (and most 80s cartoons) so the Battletoads will always hold second fiddle stature in me eyes.
Obviously a lot of gamers think otherwise. Battletoads fans have been pretty vocal for the amphibians to make a return, including a rather infamous prank by 4chan users.
Well…it’s taken years but it’s finally here; a new Battletoads game.
Is the game worth the wait?
Read on to find out.
What is Battletoads?
Battletoads is a 2.5D beat ’em up, with up to three people playing simultaneously. Like most games in the genre, players move from left to right as the screen scrolls, beating enemies in their way. Simple puzzles (such as hacking) sometimes show up in the stages, breaking up the constant brawling.
Developed by Dlala Studios and Rare, the latest Battletoads game is available on the Xbox One and PC. If you’re a Game Pass subscriber, the game’s free to play on both the Xbox One and PC.
In the latest game, the Battletoads find out that they’ve been living a lie for the past 26 years (their last game came out in 1994). Unknowingly trapped in a bunker (and living in a VR world where they’re famous), the toads are released into the modern world only to find out nobody even remembers them.
Long story short, they go on a journey of revenge and of course, reclaim their place in the spotlight once more. The plot’s not that bad for a lighthearted adventure and it definitely has its moments, though I felt that the humor seemed forced at times.
Bring the series into modern gaming meant that the gameplay’s been tweaked. The game’s no longer the plodding brawler it was, but a faster, leaner being.
Each of the toads handle differently; Rash is average in speed and power, Zits is fast but weak and Pimple is powerful but moves like a snail.
I personally prefer Pimple. His attacks animations are the coolest, plus I prefer to knock my enemies out in a couple of devastating hits than pummel them with a thousand and one quick hits like you’d have to with Zits or Rash.
Unlike most games where you’re locked to a single character, here you can easily swap out Battletoads if you’re playing solo. Unfortunately, swapping doesn’t restore life like you’d expect, though defeated toads do become playable once more after a countdown ends.
It’s certainly an interesting mechanic (how I wish Streets of Rage 4 had this) but I feel it’s sorely underutilized. For one, no health regeneration (as mentioned) is pretty lame. Second, there’s really no point (other than getting a high rank for each battle), to tag in and out in the middle of a battle. You don’t get special boosts or even unique attack animations so why bother?
Dashing in and out of fights is now a major gameplay feature (it’s also one of the best ways to avoid getting hit), making the game much more frantic than previous entries.
That’s good because the difficulty in the game is incredibly erratic. Some stages you’ll breeze through, only to be relentlessly punished in the next. Enemies can be pretty cheap, with their moves too, especially those with long range attacks.
There are also other special moves (such as spitting to hold enemies in place or using the toads’ tongue to grab and pull enemies) that give a bit of variety to the combat.
Combos are an integral part of gameplay too, and you’re encouraged to use all the toads in each battle to maximize your score.
However, satisfying as the combat may be, it still doesn’t feel as awesome as fellow brawler Streets of Rage 4’s. The moveset’s for the characters are pretty limited, forcing you to use the same moves over and over again. Plus, controls can feel a bit clunky and attack hit boxes seem a bit off.
That might be due to the animation.
The game certainly has a unique cartoon-ish style (which isn’t bad) but the quality of the animation leaves much to be desired. I’ve seen 80s cartoons with better animated frames than in Battletoads. Pimple’s attacks especially could use with more frames to make them more fluid.
Stages too could use a rework. Most of them are bland and really boring, with nothing unique to really set them apart. Sure, some have environmental hazards (like the sewer with the slime that conducts electricity), but most are just basic.
Apart from brawling, the game tries to break up the monotony by having a myriad of different distractions, including Toadshambo (the toads’ version of Scissors, Paper, Stone!) and light puzzle elements. Toadshambo is fine, but the light puzzle elements in the stages are disruptive.
They break up the flow of the stages (especially when you keep failing them and need to retry), wasting time for no real reason.
The Bottom Line.
To be honest, I’m not that impressed with Battletoads, especially compared with fellow brawler, Streets of Rage 4.
The tag team mechanic is damn cool but is sorely underused. The attacks are cool, but there’s no variety. The stages look nice but are bland gameplay-wise. That’s pretty much the thing with the whole game. Battletoads nails the basics, but fails to build upon them in enjoyable ways.
If you’re looking for a retro styled brawler (though with a modern coat of paint), Battletoads is a pretty decent choice. Just know that there are other options out there.
Decent brawler that needs tweaking to be really great.