Battletoads review (Xbox One)

The long-awaited return of the Battletoads franchise is finally here, with a new take on the 90s cult classic from developers Dlala Studios and Rare, who were also responsible for the first game.

We’ve certainly had a lot of games riding in on the nostalgia train in recent years, and the beat ’em up genre has had a good year already with the release of Streets of Rage 4. We’ve had a similarly long wait for Battletoads, with all of the original games in the franchise stemming from the early nineties – released against the backdrop of the popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show and games. When the Rare Replay collection launched we were reacquainted with the eccentric trio, but now we finally have our hands on a brand new adventure – as long as you have access to an Xbox One or Windows 10 PC, that is.

The 2020 release of Battletoads revels in the feelings of nostalgia that surround it, even down to the (fairly insane) plot that drives the narrative forward. Stuck in time for about a quarter of a century, we find the Battletoads (Zits, Pimple and Rash) on a quest to regain their relevance, which is both ‘meta’ in nature and makes for some weird but funny references and a storyline that is – literally and figuratively – all over the place.

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The mad jumps in the story coincide with constant changes in gameplay, as Battletoads in 2020 isn’t a straight up arcade brawler type of game – which might disappoint fans of the original games. Instead, a myriad of gameplay styles is explored, including both 2D and 3D runners, twin stick shooting and a variety of minigames. It’s all over the place so if your affinity is strictly with one genre that might be a problem, but it does help in padding the game to a healthy 5 hours or so of gameplay time. Not the longest game out there, but far longer than your average arcade brawler.

This one is certainly for the fans though, with a lot of signature humor and plenty of references to the era in which the Battletoads were quite popular. The art style and visuals are also excellent, especially during the beat ’em up sections, which feature stunning animations. Good voice acting and a quality soundtrack also help elevate the audiovisual experience, so if you enjoyed the approach that Dotemu took with Streets of Rage you’ll certainly get a kick out of seeing Battletoads in action.

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What’s also nice to know is that Battletoads supports cooperative play, so you can go into battle with a team of three player-controlled characters. This is only supported locally though, so don’t expect to connect with friends online – which is a shame since we’ve seen that option successfully used plenty of times and it would be a great fit for a time in which we’re all staying at home a little more.

If the original game didn’t appeal to you because it was quite difficult, then the 2020 version has you covered. Multiple difficulty modes are available to make the experience a little more accessible to those who aren’t die-hard beat ’em up fans. I could also see this game appealing to those who’ve only ever seen the animated series as well, since the variety of gameplay styles is almost like playing through one of the show’s wacky episodes – making this a game with plenty of fan appeal. Those just looking for a brawler might end up slightly disappointed, but we’re glad Battletoads is back.

Score: 7.2/10

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