A hi-res, hand-drawn, downloadable game in which cute characters are imprisoned by maniacal cats who force them to act in lethal plays for their amusement. Sounds like a game from The Behemoth to me!
I played Battleblock Theater at PAX this weekend and was so impressed I made sure it got a Destructoid Game of the Show nomination. It was just that much silly, outrageous, beautifully violent fun!
In case you don't know the basics, Battleblock Theater is a co-op platformer in which up to four players help each other to collect gems and find their way to each stage's exit. At least, they can help each other. Betrayal is said to be a big part of the experience, and it's not difficult for untrustworthy players to deliberately screw over their allies.
In Battleblock, death comes frequently and without mercy. Whether you're drowning in water, getting fried by energy beams, jumping into spikes or getting kicked around by cats, you will face your own mortality repeatedly, and it's rather hilarious. An announcer constantly taunts you with each death, and respawns are well placed enough so that expiration isn't too frustrating. In fact, while you will die often, you won't ever die for good. To expect that, though, is to miss the point.
Battleblock Theater is just as much a puzzle game as a platformer. In order to get gems and collect rare balls of yarn, players need to work together -- holding down buttons, timing jumps, and throwing each other around the map. There are loads of environmental obstacles, unique platforms with special properties, and power-ups that both provide aid and hindrances. Each level is also timed, so while you can attempt to get a gem as many times as you like, you'll fail if you can't nab it and reach the exit in time.
With the focus being on trial-and-error gameplay with puzzle elements, I'm reminded of classic puzzle-platformers like Abe's Oddysee and Heart of Darkness. However, while those games are slow-paced and atmospheric, Battleblock is a cartoony, rapid-fire experience, and I felt like I was playing one of those old school greats in fast-forward.
With the ability to customize characters and equip special weapons, a huge amount of stage variety, and some tightly fiendish level design, Battleblock Theater is a game I cannot wait to get in full. It's a delightfully sadistic romp that fans of intense platform action will surely dig.