People got reintroduced to Battletoads with Rare Replay and having Rash in Killer Instinct. Rare IP’s are popular and Microsoft allowed developer Dlala Studios to give Battletoads a modern spin. I was a little surprised that they could work on this famous franchise as their previous beat-em-up game Overruled! received many, many bad reviews from critics. Luckily for Dlala, and us Xbox players things are completely different now and Battletoads is much better than I originally thought. You’ll soon read why in our review but doesn’t it feel great to have the toads again? More dormant franchises from Microsoft should make a return, hopefully, Battletoads and Flight Simulator will do good enough so they greenlight some more nostalgic games.
What we liked!
- Variety: The NES versions of Battletoads had more than sidescrolling beat-’em-up too but I was really surprised to see so much variety while playing Battletoads. This truly is a multi-genre experience, unlike anything I have played before. You’ll be solving increasingly difficult energy flow puzzles, racing sections that require insane reflexes, fly in a space machine as a Shmup-game, platforming, and some hilarious mini-games that I won’t spoil. The famous Speeder sections return too, although a little bit different. The third-person camera makes it a little bit easier but have no fear, it will still require your best gaming skills to survive.
- Are we watching Cartoon Network? So the variety struck me by surprise but I was extremely surprised by how hilarious and simply awesome the story is told through what could be prime-time Cartoon Network cutscenes. Many moments I was laughing out loud, even while playing the game because of silly one-liners. Rash, Zitz, Pimple and all the other known and new characters have such recognizable personalities that often clash in the most fun ways, and yet again all of them have a big “straight out of a cartoon show vibe”
- Personalization and combat: Strong voice-acting and great dialogue give the toads their deserved characterization, but this also shows in the actual fighting too. All three of them have a different fighting style with unique morph abilities. It all comes down to some button-mashing but knowing when to attack is important as some enemies will only be hurt by charge attacks or by dodging them first. Plenty of enemy designs make sure that the actual enemy difference is hidden in plain sight, you only have four different types of mobs that require a different tactic. Things can become so hectic that I didn’t mind that you only have two regular types that fight up close or from long ranged. And two that need some more thinking than button-mashing, a type that needs a charge attack first and the most annoying in the pack are the enemies you need to dodge first so they get stunned. You have more tools up your disposal, you can spit on an enemy so it stays out of combat, you can bring an enemy closer to you with your toad tongue and you can change between the three toads on the fly to extend your combo. It is hard to not compare it with the recently released Streets of Rage but I had more fun with the combat from Battletoads, it is a shame that there isn’t just more of it as at least 25% of the short game is other things than sidescrolling combat.
- Co-op is great but we’re in 2020 so where is the online co-op? A few Achievements require things to complete with three players and even before COVID I have no idea how or when I will get three gamers together at my place that have enough skill to play Battletoads. With Xbox Game Pass this is such a missed opportunity. That said, the local co-op is splendid and even the mini-games have some well-found ways to play with two or three players. But again, as the latest similar games in the beat-em-up genre could provide online co-op Battletoads should have had it too, there is no legit excuse for this.
- You will like or hate the visual art style: My girlfriend couldn’t really understand what was happening on the screen as it really gets hectic and too informative for your eyes visually. It is so colourful and there is so much going on at times that it is hard to follow. For me personally, I really like how the silly the enemies look, how much little details the animations have and how battles can go from front to back row in an instant.
What we disliked
- Battletoads was popular in the speedrunner-community, this 2020 version might not be for them: I am not a speedrunner, I simply have too much to play on my Xbox to fully master games and try to complete it as fast as possible for bragging rights. I do know however that Battletoads is still one of the most played in the speedrunner-community, and these guys were really looking forward to this new Battletoads. Pretty sure these people will be disappointed as Battletoads is plagued by unskippable cutscenes and dialogue and mini-games that require luck and not skill. This doesn’t affect my personal score but do keep it in mind if you wanted to buy Battletoads for this.
- Time played and replay value: You have to find collectibles in the levels, well hidden or in hard spots to collect and that ends the replay value. There are no leaderboards, for example, I was honestly expecting that there would be a never-ending speeder section so my friends and I could try to stay alive for the longest or at least some kind of overall combat style score leaderboard. None of that and that’s a big miss for me. Overall most players will be done with Battletoads in four to six hours, that isn’t bad for this kind of game but I had so much fun that I wanted more of it.
I had so much fun with the toads, it feels great to have them back in 2020. It is a shame that not every expected feature in 2020 is in Battletoads, the miss from no online co-op or any sort of leaderboard is really silly. Don’t let this be a party killer though, the outstanding gameplay and hilarious cutscenes and dialogue is really something you should experience!