he Behemoth always knows how to take a classic formula and make it something special, be it with aliens and Russians in Alien Hominid or the absurdly hilariously animated brawling antics in Castle Crashers, thier games just ooze style and humor. No small wonder with their vintage internet roots on Newgrounds.com. And, as it turns out, things have only still kept getting more awesomer, for real, with Battleblock Theater, a tale of shipwrecked friends, mysterious feline entities on a mysterious island, and Hatty Hattington, friend of all and forced to watch himself test the mettle of all those he loved in a jail-turned theater of sadistic horrors, aggressive cats, constant danger, and certain death.
The core concept of Battleblock Theatre is simple: Navigate stages built of set-piece blocks (not unlike Minecraft, in many ways) to collect three gems and get to the exit. Collect more, find bonus items, or do it faster and you get a better letter grade, all the way up to A+. The arenas you play in are side-scrolling platforming stages filled to the brim with various hazards and conditional blocks. At your disposal is a double-jump maneuver and some melee combat skills. Everything is nicely explained throughout the entire game, so players are never really at a loss when it comes down to needing to know how to do stuff.
There are multiple level hubs and, subsequently, multiple levels to go through (typically nine) until the "boss" stage, a super-tough time trial that puts your skills to the test. as with the regular stages, these time trials will grade you based on how many gems you collect and so forth. Beyond this, there are bonus time trials to tackle once the boss stage is conquered.
Meanwhile, all of the gems (and also balls of yarn) you will collect also serve a higher purpose: All of your friends have been imprisoned in giant "Chonka-Chonka" machines (just like the ones The Behemoth uses to sell mini figures at shows like PAX, as it turns out!) Any of the freed prisoners can be used in-game. Some have sketched out expressions, others wear hats, some have animal faces, others have animals on their faces -- it goes on and on, and there exist hundreds. I settled on one with a bandana on his face, Hispanic-gang-style. I even found one that looks just like George. And that's just the cube-headed guys; there are seemingly endless faces for your character, which adds to the replay factor.
The yarn can be used to bribe the guards to give you additional weapons, which can be equipped before starting a stage. There are a few really cool ones, like exploding paper planes and dart guns that can be used to make impromptu stairs and so on. Great stuff. Speaking of replay value, I did mention that there are user-created levels that are constantly featured and cycled through, right? Yeah, that's a thing too! So basically, this game is more or less the Immortal Jellyfish of action-puzzlers. You could play this game forever.
So the game is great, and if it were a cake, it would be delicious. But a cake also needs icing (YES IT DOES) and Battleblock Theater has some amazing icing in its visual and sound design. Never mind the hilarious animation and ridiculous set pieces -- the sound is the clear winner here. If you're familiar with Stamper - also from Newgrounds - you know what I'm getting at here. His perfect commentary and narration is expertly delivered and nearly leathally side-splitting. And the music! It's fantatic and varied, adding a perfectly awesome tone to the overall game. But the piece de resistance? The greatest part of the presentation? Well, sssh! That's a secret. Just be forewarned; it very nearly killed me.
So basically, yeah, with your next 1200 microsoft points, grab yourself some battleblock theater. It's a fun piece of excellence from The Behemoth that just shouldn't be missed.