It almost seems like Battletoads is a game that Microsoft wants to keep hidden. We've only seen tidbits of gameplay since its announcement, up until late last month with the release date reveal trailer. The trailer was polarizing, to say the least. Battletoads boasted a brand new art style that looks like something from Cartoon Network. It certainly doesn't look like the hardcore, gritty brawler from way back when. I was willing to give the new visuals the benefit of the doubt, and it turns out to absolutely play in the game's favor. Moreover, I don't think Microsoft has anything to hide—Battletoads is actually pretty damn fun.
Battletoads: The Cartoon!
As I just said, Battletoads' most striking feature is its visuals. It's cartoon-like to the point that it's hard to distinguish the game and its cutscenes from actual shows on, say, Cartoon Network. Where the visuals shine the most are in the cutscenes themselves, which are expertly animated and goofy. I'm by no means an authority on cartoons, but Battletoads' quality of animation is just as good as the shows it seems to take inspiration from. That's impressive, to say the least.
During cutscenes, you'll be met with batty and quirky dialogue to propel the plot forward. The voice talent of Battletoads brings a lot of life to each character, from the burly but friendly bruiser Pimples to the properly British voice of the Dark Queen. While secondary characters were just average in terms of vocal performance, the banter between the main cast is always entertaining. The humor is crude, but it actually got me to laugh out loud. It's not mature adult humor, but it's definitely not kid-friendly, either. It's easy to get lost in these scenes and enjoy the lighthearted nature of the story.
The gameplay's visuals are very similar, and it ends up feeling like you're playing a cartoon. The beat em' up segments are brought to life with the absurd and ridiculous animations. For example, Rash's fists turn into a dead fish which he uses to bash enemies, while Zitz turns into a jackhammer and drills away at enemies. The over-the-top animations of enemies also add a great element to battle, making each fight as entertaining to watch as the cutscenes themselves. Along with the badass guitar riffs in the background of the gameplay, there's a lot I loved about the art direction in this title.
Battletoads' Various Genres
Battletoads is, for the most part, a side-scrolling beat em' up game. You'll walk forward in a level, encounter a few waves of enemies, and move onward. There's a roster of three different characters, as well. Each of the three Battletoads has different abilities, which makes them feel unique from one another. The combat system is also combo-based, so stringing together sequences of attacks turns out to be a delight.
The combat is super beefy and impactful. You'll want to play Battletoads with a controller (it's recommended to do so in the game itself) so you can feel the collision of your hits on enemies. The vibration of the controller added some immersion and excitement. The feeling is even more pronounced with your combos. Combos are an important part of combat, so if you just randomly button mash it's not as fun a game. The only problem is, there's no combo list in the menu or instructions. I had to discover combos myself, but there were some attacks that I was able to pull off only a handful of times without really knowing how. I would probably enjoy the combat even more if I knew how to optimize my attacks.
Some of the moves you pull off include launching enemies in the air, general punching, as well as transformation attacks (as I said before, this involves Rash turning into a jackhammer and other objects). The Battletoads are, well, toads, too. They can use their tongues, and that comes into play in combat. You'll be able to grapple enemies and pull them towards you, shoot out bubblegum to stick enemies in place, and eat flies with your tongue. It's certainly not the most vital combat ability, but these abilities help create a fun combat system.
Enemy variety in Battletoads isn't astounding, but it's not bad, either. There are enough different enemy types that each brawl was enjoyable, although a few more variants wouldn't hurt. There are a few enemy types that are particularly annoying for solo players, however. One type throws axes that might as well be heat-seeking missiles, and boy do they hurt. These ax-throwing lunatics were a nightmare to deal with, but I imagine with more players it's a much easier time. As a solo player, you do feel like you're at a disadvantage at times due to how some enemies act.
It wouldn't be entirely truthful to say that Battletoads is just a beat em' up. Roughly half of the gameplay experience comprises various mini-games, ranging from SHUMPs to puzzle platforming. Battletoads excels in its combat, but it leans a little too hard into these other genres. In fact, Battletoads spends so much time on these games to the point that it feels like filler; meanwhile, I was itching to get back into the actual action.
That's not to say these minigames are bad. I found that only a couple of them are. I actually enjoyed the SHUMP game. Still, not only do some of these feel like filler, but it throws the pacing of the story off. It would also be nice to see some more effort put into the minigames, since most of them are very basic. Thankfully, they can be played with multiple players, so while I played solo, I think your enjoyment of these will depend on how many people you have with you—the more, the better. Playing rock paper scissors isn't exactly fun with computers, and you'll be doing that if you're by yourself.
Battletoads Review | Final Thoughts
Battletoads is a short adventure, but it has a bit of longevity with the collectibles and high scores. Every level has collectibles for the completionists out there. Some of these are cleverly hidden and take a bit of ingenuity to find. I just wish these collectibles had more purpose, like unlocking alternate costumes or concept art. As of right now, they serve no use besides giving some satisfaction to players. Otherwise, aiming for the highest score is another incentive to retry some levels. I know I wasn't as proficient in combat as I was by the end of Battletoads, so I'm sure I can do better in my next playthrough.
Ultimately, Battletoads might be under the radar, but it's one title you should really consider picking up. If you're nostalgic for cartoons or enjoy Adult Swim-style shows, the humor and art style deserve your attention. The beat em' up gameplay is impactful and fun, but some of the minigames get in the way of the pacing. Either way, Battletoads was a pleasant surprise. Our favorite amphibians are back in all their warty glory.
TechRaptor reviewed Battletoads on PC via the Microsoft Store with a code provided by the publisher. Battletoads is also available on Steam, the Xbox One and through Xbox Game Pass.
- Cartoon Art Style and Animations
- Great Cutscenes and Humor
- Main Cast's Vocal Performance
- Fun Beat 'em Up Segments
- Some Subpar Minigames Affect Pacing
- A Few Annoying Enemies
- Needs a Combo List