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Game review: Battletoads (2020)

By Damian Seeto
Mon 31 Aug 2020
FYI, this story is more than a year old

I was too young to play the NES version of Battletoads from 1991, although I did play the re-release that was a part of the Rare Replay collection for Xbox One. The Rare Replay version of the game even offered a rewind system, although I was still unable to beat the game. 

The reason my brother and I couldn’t finish the game was because of the infamous speeder bike section. We died lots and lots of times because there were too many obstacles in the way. You don’t want to know how many times we crashed and had to start all over again!

When a new Battletoads game was announced for Xbox One in 2020, I didn’t know how to react. A part of me was excited that the franchise was coming back, although the other half of me dreaded the thought of another speeder bike section again. 

Well thankfully the 2020 version of Battletoads is friendlier towards its players. This is because there are three difficulty settings to cater for a wider range of skills. There’s tadpole (easy), toad (normal) and then battletoads (hard). 

The difficulty you choose affects the number of lives you have, and they also increase or decrease the strength of enemies. I admired the difficulty levels as it made the game more manageable when there was a particular level that was giving me and my brother trouble. 

Even though this game is simply called Battletoads, it’s not a remake or a reboot of the series. The new game is actually a sequel that takes place 26 years after the first game. While the trio of toads were once known as heroes, they are now nobodies that need to find real life jobs. 

Unhappy with their current lives, the toads aim to become famous again by trying to take down the Dark Queen. However, the Dark Queen is not the main bad person in this game as she needs the toads’ help to defeat the new alien race called the Topians. 

The first thing you will notice about the new Battletoads game is its bright and vibrant presentation. The game’s graphics and cutscenes resemble that of a cartoon that airs on Cartoon Network. Some people may not like the redesigns of some of the characters, but I feel the quirky style of animation suited the game’s atmosphere. 

 I also admired the fact that this game is quite humorous as the characters are all funny in their own unique way. I do have to admit though, some of the jokes don’t land but it’s still a game that made me laugh throughout its short duration. 

As for the gameplay, Battletoads is a mixed bag for me. The main problem of the game is the fact that it is a mix of different genres, rather than your traditional style of 2D beat-em-up. Even though the game is advertised to have 25 stages, only a small fraction of them are beat-em-up levels. 

Instead, Battletoads 2020 has a lot of other mini-games to diversify the gameplay. The diversification helps to make the game not feel too repetitive, although some of the mini-games are very hit and miss in terms of their enjoyment level. 

One of the mini-games that work well in Battletoads is the newly designed speeder bike sections. The speeder bike sections now have the camera positioned behind the characters, so it’s much easier to see the obstacles that lie in front of you. I’m happy to say unlike in the original game, my brother and I completed all of the speeder bike sections in the 2020 game!

Other mini-games are too short to even talk about. There is a waste of time mini-game where you have to play the game’s own version of ‘rock, paper scissors’. Some other stages are just boring and very short quick time events. 

Act 3 of Battletoads is probably the weakest area of the entire game. In this section, you have to pilot a ship and shoot enemies like the game Asteroids. The co-op mode in this area is boring because one player controls the ship, while the other person mans the guns. It would have been more fun if both players had their own ships to pilot. 

Another part of act 3 is where you don’t do any fighting whatsoever. In these levels, you control Pimple as he tries to navigate his way through a foreign planet. All he can do is push boxes as he solves many puzzles to lead to the next area. This section felt too long and slow in my opinion. It wasn’t really that fun solving all of the puzzles. 

Despite trying to diversify the gameplay, this does not change the fact that Battletoads is still one of the shortest games I’ve played all year. You can complete this game in just around three to four hours depending on the difficulty setting you choose. 

Some gamers may also dislike that this game has no online multiplayer whatsoever. You cannot play the game cooperatively with other players online. You can only play the game via old school couch coop. 

While Battletoads 2020 is an easier game to play compared to the original, it’s not a grand return to the gaming industry. While there are fun elements to the game, the overall execution isn’t as good as I’d hoped. In my opinion, the game should have added more beat-em-up levels to make the gameplay more fun. 

Verdict: 6.5/10

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