Developer: Rare, Dlala Studios
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Genre: Beat ‘em up Platformer
Available On: PC, Xbox One
Version Tested: PC
Release Date: August 20th
Where to Buy: Microsoft Store
Originating from their notoriously difficult Nintendo Entertainment System outing, Battletoads placed players in a unique action game. Now all the toads have finally returned to their beat ‘em up action and genre-shifting shenanigans. Becoming household names in the early ’90s, the anthropomorphic amphibians were an absolute riot even landing their own awful Saturday morning kids show pilot. These crazy toads were Rare’s golden IP with new games on both the NES and Sega Genesis consoles, it was hard not to take notice. While the brand was trying to replicate the success of more famous anthropomorphic turtles, by the late ’90s the toad fever ran cold.
The last time they were in the public eye was over 25 years ago! Aside from some brief cameos with Shovel Knight, Killer Instinct, and Rare Replay, their last actual game, Battletoads Arcade, was a fairly unsuccessful title. Thus, the skin blemish named toads laid dormant, waiting for the right time to return. After 2 years since their initial announcement and quiet delay to 2020, Battletoads has finally released, bringing the titular and memorable action with it. While the title is a spiritual successor that can’t capture the full scope of the original’s charm, there’s still plenty to love at a $20 price and Game Pass availability.
The Battletoads Blast from the Past
Pitting Rash, Zitz and Pimple back into the pummel party action is an amazing revival to the loveable wacky toads. The actual plot picks up after our heroes escape a simulation they’ve been trapped in since 1994. Having no money to track down their nemesis, Dark Queen, players even have to button mash their way through a mini-game of monotonous odd jobs to get to the next stage. The title places the toads right back into the world-hopping action without skipping a beat. After finally locating Dark Queen, the Battletoads team up with her to defeat the Topian overlords who control the universe.
The genuine appeal of the title comes in the fighting side-scroller levels that Battletoads excels in. Even compared to recent retro revivals like Streets of Rage 4, the title’s combat is on par with recent additions to the genre. The overall feeling of the three toads control well with all the major movement and dodging options being very responsive. With a simple 3 button layout for all of your combo needs, the morphing ridiculousness of the gang’s powers is shown in full force. Even some combo moves are references like Rash’s arcade cabinet combo playing the Battletoads original theme. Aside from Rash and Zitz having comparable strength, players can switch seamlessly between the toads or have some friends hop into the fight. Whichever way you play, there’re tons of appeal in this return to glory.
With all the humor and jokes packed in, Dlala Studios injected personality into this release. There were a few dull jokes along the way, but each cutscene only made me want to see more of their antics outside of the platforming and fighting. It only brings this to life thanks to the amazing animations the team could pull off. The artwork is stellar and the new eye-catching look for the Battletoads. The 4K hand-drawn environments and characters pop on the screen thanks to the vibrant colors and the experts drawing capabilities led by the animation team. The music especially is the highlight of some classic NES chiptune tracks. Hearing the full turbo tunnel theme blazing through with guitar solos ring through is electrifying. David Houdsen’s tracks and remixes are some of the best the series has seen and having them echo through the whole game makes some of these songs that much more memorable.
A lot of the title’s strongest moments will vary from player to player as in classic Battletoad fashion, the game shifts genre quite well. As evident in the intro, the title loves giving the player a few minigame stages intermixed with platforming, space shooting, side-scrolling, and of course neck-breaking turbo bike runs. So much charm is put into some of the smallest moments that it’s hard not to appreciate the cheeky dialogue and button-mashing gameplay at it’s best. While some of the genres hit the mark all too well; some of the platforming and space shooting are very unoriginal and linear.
Toad Out of Water
One of the main follies in revival titles is usually the overreliance on the past. 2020s Battletoads struggles with re-capturing what made the platforming part of Battletoads so difficult and fun to keep trying to playing through. Does the 2020 remake recapture the same feeling? Not exactly. One of the more linear and boring parts of the game is when you aren’t even playing as any of the toads. These moments were even worse in subsequent playthrough as I found them to be more of a chore than fun. While these sections are calling back to some more vertically challenged levels in the original, they are all very basic and almost tedious because they’re inter-cut with other genres that are miles better.
The most disappointing part of the entire experience, however, is the runtime. On a normal playthrough, it only took a few hours to get the job done with harder difficulties taking several hours to complete. Overall, the title is criminally short and the devs have even stated that they had ideas that couldn’t be fit into the eventual release. The title showcases some exceptional potential for what could be possible if they would develop those ideas into DLC. For all the self-aware humor referencing the small team and budget that contributed to the game’s length, DLC for this title would be spectacular to see new worlds and stages fully fleshed out.
Battletoads is in one of those weird situations where the game itself is good, albeit very brief. If you can ignore some mundane stage and genre types that just don’t catch on or stay around long enough to have a unique identity; then Battletoads is a perfect title for some mindless mashing. In terms of brand revival, this remake gives fresh looks at classic 90s characters while preserving the cartoony feel of the original.
Verdict: Battletoads 2020 is an excellent return for the amphibian morphing trio. The action is entertaining and exhilarating despite some genres leaving much to be desired. While the story or the gameplay isn’t groundbreaking in their respective genres, the humor and silly nature of the toads is captivating and endearing. No matter how and who you play with, Battletoads offers good action and fast-paced gameplay despite feeling derivative at times.
- Enjoyable combat
- Genre variety is overall good
- Cheap price
- Short completion time
- Platforming fails to stand out