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Battletoads (2020)
Game Reviews

Battletoads (2020)

The radical Toads are back and they really, really want you to like them. Maybe you will?

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They say that there’s no such thing as a new idea. The video game industry would certainly seem to bear this hypothesis out, given the huge number of remakes, reboots and remasters that come out every year. New IPs and content are expensive, after all! It’s cheaper and possibly easier to grab something dusty from the back of the closet, spray on a new layer of freshness and package it as something new.

That’s kind of what we’ve got here with Battletoads, because, even though it was announced a few years back, I don’t think anyone was expecting a new Battletoads game in 2020. Maybe ever. It’s been a pretty strange year, to say the least, so maybe the return of Battletoads isn’t the strangest thing that could’ve happened. Either way, it’s here, so enjoy!

Battletoads is a video game that knows it’s a video game! Much like Rare’s original NES game this can vary between being cute and irritating on a regular basis, though for the most part I found it to be chuckle-worthy. Our froggy (toady?) heroes find themselves demoted from the superheroes they used to be right down to the bottom of the barrel. Now it’s up to Rash, Pimple and Zitz to find work and make something of themselves, be that as heroes or data-entry specialists.

Battletoads would really prefer that you play with friends; there’s three toads to choose from and each plays a little differently. Rash is your balanced sort, Pimple is your big and slow bruiser and Zitz is your speedster. Multiplayer is preferred, but if you’re going solo you’re able to switch between each toad and take advantage of their varying movesets and separate lifebars, but in cooperative mode you can revive fallen pals, so the latter’s preferable if you can manage it.

Of the three, Zitz is probably the most enjoyable toad to use, since his blazing-fast movement and combo attacks make for an enjoyable, tactile experience. Pimple, meanwhile, feels like he’s punching wet paper and lacks the smashitude of similar characters in games like Streets of Rage, so I tried to avoid using him where possible.

No matter your toad, brawling amounts to beating foes up with combos and using specific attacks to get through specific enemies’ defenses. If they’ve got a shield, use a charge attack! If they’re fast, stick them with gum! You’ve got a little dash to avoid attacks as well, which is useful to the point of being overpowered. It’s unlikely that you’ll take many hits if you pay attention. The toads’ arsenal is varied enough that you won’t get bored, but at the same time some of the options seem a bit unnecessary. The launcher, for instance, really lives up to its name by launching enemies out of reach for combos. It’s not the most useful choice most of the time.

Of course, that’s mostly talking about the standard brawler segments of Battletoads. Much like the original classic, you won’t necessarily be punching, kicking and transforming all of the time. There are plenty of minigames here and there, ranging from comical button-mashing to a shooter to a retread of the Turbo Tunnel from the NES game – and if you’re playing on the hardest difficulty, that last one is a pretty solid recreation of how brutal that stage used to be. Whether or not this is an improvement over a standard brawler is going to depend on the player, but if you’re here for bashing baddies and nothing else, you might be disappointed.

Another thing that’s going to be a little divisive is Battletoads’ commitment to its particular brand of humor. As mentioned, it’s a very self-aware sort of game, akin to titles like Sunset Overdrive, and that’s about as hit-or-miss as you might expect – this is a game that’s trying its hardest to get you to like it, and it shows. Personally, I ended up having a good time with it, finding the game akin to something like an Adult Swim animated series…but if you want hardcore, gruff, serious action from your anthropomorphic toad brawlers, well, sorry in advance. Humor’s a pretty personal thing. The first half-hour or so is going to tell you all you need to know, and don’t expect Battletoads to let up throughout.

Likewise, your fondness for Battletoads’ aesthetic is probably going to be up to your taste. Personally, I’m pretty fond of the modern Flash-esque take on the heroes and find the whole affair to be pretty accurate to the original game, but that’s definitely not going to be the case for everyone. On the bright side, this sort of game runs well on pretty much any hardware, be it Xbox, PC or otherwise, so the time spent you’ll spend downloading it off Game Pass isn’t going to be wasted.

That’s really what this comes down to, isn’t it? Battletoads is a Game Pass game. If you’re a dedicated Microsoft gamer you should have Game Pass by now. You’ll lose nothing by giving it a shot. While the humor and presentation aren’t going to be for everyone, fans of Rare’s classic series at least owe it to the bodacious toads to give this reboot a go. Make that a super-mega-recommendation if you’ve got a couple friends to play with, since Battletoads really excels as a cooperative game. A hint: services like Parsec make it pretty easy to find friends to join you on PC. Party on, dudes!

About the Author: Cory Galliher