So far for me, developer The Behemoth has a hit rate of 50%. Alien Hominid, their hard as nails side scrolling love letter to old school gaming, was ace. Castle Crashers, however, I totally hated ? odd considering games like Golden Axe and Final Fight were my go-to genre as a kid.
Now, that four years of development, they're back with something new yet familiar feeling: Battleblock Theatre. Half puzzler and half platformer, I've been playing it a while now and am still unsure which side of the fence I'm on.
As you'd expect from The Behemoth, it's a spectacularly polished experience that sees your little dude working his way through the titular venue as he (she? It?) attempts to rescue prisoners from the clutches of the anthropomorphised cats who hold them. To do this you'll be thrown into levels made up of a number of acts where you'll need to grab a minimum of three green gems before being allowed to escape.
The gems aren't just your keys to getting out of a level, though. They also act as the in-game currency that lets you spring the other prisoners from their incarceration. The more you grab in each level (there's usually seven) the more you can set free! Splendid stuff!
Of course, while the early stages of the game are nice and simple, easing you into how the game functions, it ramps up pretty bloody quickly ? just as you'd expect if you've played anything else from The Behemoth.
Thankfully, the game is never punishing ? as long as you know what you're doing. Dumb mistakes will be rewarded with a swift trip back to the last checkpoint. With no lives to lose, even if you're making constant errors you'll still get to the end eventually, albeit with a much lower completion rank.
However, the amount of times you're sitting there scratching your head wondering what your next step should be, only to discover it's yet another leap of faith down a pit... well, it can be a bit annoying.
Still, I plugged on, eager to see how the game would progress. The thing is, it doesn't progress that much. Sure, you'll get new prisoners with which to tackle the levels (though they don't actually do anything differently) and access to a range of weapons bought with hidden balls of wool, but it always ends up the same: jump around a maze of platforms, grab the gems, die a few times, escape... Rinse and repeat as necessary.
Of course, all this is in relation to the single player game. Most of the fun in the game can be found in its multiplayer Arena mode where there's a range of activities to tackle either co-operatively or competitively.
Sofa-based play is where its at, hurling abuse at other players as you attempt to steal horses, colour in bits of the gameworld or simply kill each other as much as possible.
Much in the same way that loads of people (not me, though) still often settle in for some Castle Crashing even now, I can see Battleblock Theatre becoming a popular post-pub activity.
You can probably tell that I'm skirting around an issue with the game, an elephant in the room. It's not a big deal but yeah ? I have one problem with it that annoys the balls off me: the narrator.
At the very start of the game, you're told the harrowing tale of how you and the other prisoners ended up in your predicament. Basically, there's a big storm, a shipwreck, blah blah blah.
All of this is delivered by a narrator (who sounds like Kevin McDonald from The Kids In The Hall) and as the story drew to a close I prepared to get into the meat of the game thinking he'd done his bit.
Bugger me, was I wrong. That bastard NEVER shuts up. All the way through each level. Every time you die. Each time you pick up something. Hell, it feels like every time you hit a button he's got a snarky comment that's OH SO FUNNY. It's a small gripe in the scheme of things, but every time I heard that bloody voice I wanted to put my head through a window.
Aside from that, it's a solid game that will challenge even the most hardcore of platformer fans. You can see where a lot of the inspiration came from ? there's certainly a strong Super Meat Boy vibe in there ? but while it doesn't do anything new at all, it's worth picking up.
Striking to look at (you can tell it's a Behemoth release from the second it boots up), it's easy to pick up and play whether you're looking for a few minutes solo entertainment or a couple of hours of mate-smashing delight... just keep the volume down.
Pros + Great old school platforming + Gorgeous to look at + Amazing multiplayer
Cons - The voice - Occasionally annoying leaps of faith - Oh gods the voice make it stop!