Battletoads | First Impressions


Back when I was in college I picked up a part-time job working as a Senior Guest Advisor at my local GameStop. Now while that job has given me enough memorable stories to fill an autobiographical trilogy, the reason why I bring it up now is that during my time there I used to get prank called all the time. The pre-pubescent callers usually asked stupid questions like if GameStop still sold the NES or if the latest Call of Duty game could fit inside of a human rectum. But the "hilarious" question that I undoubtedly was asked the most was: Hey do you guys sell Battletoads? The thing that made these calls so bearable was the fact that I had a response that could dampen the mood on any child's rebellious sense of humor: Oh yes, we do. It's available in the Rare Replay collection on Xbox One, can I get a name so I can hold you a copy? Within seconds of my response, I would hear a dial tone. Anyway, buzzkills aside, even though we did in fact have Battletoads in stock, I didn't have an Xbox One at the time and never actually had a chance to play it. But now things have changed. I have a brand new Xbox One S sitting on my desk and on it is a copy of the just-released Battletoads from Rare and Dlala Studios.

To put it simply, Battletoads is about, well, the Battletoads, Rash, Pimple, and Zitz, as they get fed up with their life of no fame and go out on the hunt to find their rival, The Dark Queen. To be honest, the plot isn't really important in the game, and it's mostly just a vessel for the writers to make childish jokes (which I love) and for the developers to throw in unique gameplay segments.

Before I talk about gameplay I want to spend some time expressing my surprise at how funny Battletoads was. Having not played the prior installments or seen any trailers for the new one, I went in not knowing what to expect. But the game's self-aware humor has made me laugh more than any game I've played over the last few months. Of course, for a game like this, it's not enough to just have good writing, but also a solid cast to deliver it and Eric Bauza as Rash, Echo Kellum as Pimple, Ryan Ridley as Zitz, and Siobhan Hewlett as the Dark Queen all do a great job at bringing their characters to life with just enough quirk to make them memorable.


While Battletoads is primarily a beat 'em up, it is advertised as "multi-genre adventure" and the gameplay backs up that statement. Over the course of the four-hour game, the toads will fight big bosses, speed away on rented turbo-bikes, give back massages, hack computer terminals, perform gymnastics, and more. I'm going to be honest, I didn't grow up playing beat 'em ups, which is what a majority of the game is, and I am awful at them. I got my ass handed to me on more than one occasion by enemies that probably weren't even supposed to be that difficult. (Those damn ice cream hurling monsters can freeze in hell.) But despite my lack of skill, I still enjoyed the crap out of Battletoads. This is due in large part to the fact that the self-aware comedy that's so apparent in the writing is also, to some degree, imbedded in the gameplay. From the jackhammer that Zitz uses for a mid-air downward attack to Rash's gross foot growing big when performing a Smash Hit, accompanied by the sound of flies buzzing, there is personality to the game that's hard to not appreciate. And that personality is what made me keep playing long after my fingers ached from untimed button smashing.

I want to touch on the game's visuals briefly but first I want to share this quote from developer Rare's website on their page about Battletoads. "New to the series are a narrative focus backed up by award-winning writers and an attention-grabbing hand-drawn art style that evokes classic Saturday morning cartoons even more boldly than Zitz, Rash and Pimple's original adventures." I've already talked about the first part of that statement so I want to focus on the latter. This game smashes the classic Saturday morning cartoon nail on the head. Each of the game's colorfully animated hand-drawn cut scenes feels like it was ripped out of a cartoon that I wish existed when I was younger. It's not too late though, and if Adult Swim decided to make a season or two starring the Battletoads I would still indulge.

In the end, no matter how awful I was at Battletoads, I enjoyed (nearly) every second of it. (Seriously those ice cream hurling monsters can get ctrl + alt + deleted.) From writing and performance to gameplay and visuals, the game's sense of humor and its commitment to its style makes the toad-trio's adventure well worth the $19.99 price tag. And to Xbox Game Pass subscribers it's at no additional cost so no real harm in giving it a go if you're on the fence. For those wondering why this isn't a full review, I haven't finished the game yet, and at this rate, it'll probably be a bit, so I decided that instead of writing a review on a game I hadn't finished, which would be unfair, I would instead do a quick writeup sharing my thoughts on the game instead.

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