Xbox Game Studios and Rare are back with another game this month after Grounded and Minecraft Dungeons and it’s something completely different again, a 2020 reboot of a classic game series much beloved by it’s fans… Battletoads. Did they do it justice? Let’s find out.
I’ll be honest, I only know Battletoads from Phil Spencer’s E3 t-shirts and the hype even just wearing that caused. Fast forward to August 2020 and we finally have it in our hands and if you were one of those excited fans, I’m delighted to report it’s a pretty faithful reboot! For those of you new to Battletoads, think Streets of Rage, mixed with minigames and witty cutscenes. Pretty good concept on paper right?
Story wise, it’s a really nice touch that references the amount of time it’s been since there has been since a Battletoads games with jokes about having a life after being famous, trying to recapture that and some nice twists along the way. I don’t like to spoil anything story wise in reviews but trust me, this is a funny game. Not chuckling along funny, it will genuinely make you laugh. The level of animation is excellent and honestly left me wanting a spin off TV show, following the Battletoads adventures and this extends across the game. It reminds me slightly of Cuphead but it looks amazing, especially if you’re playing in 4K. If you stripped out all of the gameplay and presented it as a pilot episode, it would hold it’s own so a big kudos to Xbox Game Studios on that.
About half of the time will be spent in a side scrolling beat em’ up in the style of Streets of Rage (also on GamePass) which I’m happy to report is also excellent. A good mix of attacks, combos and enemies are prerequisites for a good time here and Battletoads has this down but there’s also a few nice touches that really bring it up a level. As you’re playing as a group of three toads, you can switch between them and their unique styles and extend your combos seamlessly. Plus, as you’re playing as a toad, you can use your tongue to pull enemies towards you, spit gum at them to hold them in place for a second or traverse across a level… it’s a really nice touch that’s super useful when you’re in the thick of it. The fighting gets very frantic very quickly and is genuinely a challenge. Battletoads was previously known for being a tough and unforgiving game and this does live up to it. Nailed it.
Now, here comes the bad part… the minigames. It’s actually a disservice to call them minigames as some of them last upwards of ten minutes. While it’s nice to see things like bike racing or the platforming levels make a comeback, they are so long with so little variety it just felt like padding. The minigames are also just very basic with a Galaga esque game taking 15 minutes plus to complete and didn’t really add anything to the story or gameplay – they felt more like mobile phone games from 2014. If it were me, I’d take another two hours of Battletoads’ side scrolling fighting and brief minigames as a reprieve. I know they were integral in Battletoads of the past but these should have been left there.
Did Xbox Game Studios and Rare do a good job of rebooting Battletoads? I’m 50/50, I think for hardcore fans they’ll be happy but for anyone like me, I’d have genuinely preferred Battletoads to come back as a TV show (the story, humour and animation is so strong). Out of the four and half hours I played the game, two of them were spent with those awful mini-games. Should you check out Battletoads? If you have GamePass, it’s a nice way to spend a few hours and if you’re a fan of the series this is an absolute must download.