BattleBlock Theater was developed by The Behemoth and published by Microsoft Game Studios. It was released April 3, 2013 for 1200 MSP. A copy was provided for review purposes.
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost five years since the release of Castle Crashers, the side-scrolling brawler brainchild of The Behemoth that grew up to be an XBLA darling that still sits atop sales charts today. Needless to say, the next game made by The Behemoth would have big shoes to fill. Instead of playing it safe, The Behemoth dared to be unique with BattleBlock Theater. Not only did they dare to take on a whole new side-scrolling genre, they also dared to create one of the craziest premise in the history of gaming.
BattleBlock Theater puts you in the shoes of one of the hundreds of prisoners who, after a terrible boat crash, washed up on a mysterious island and were taken captive by giant cats. These cats love their theater, so they force their prisoners into deadly plays. The story mode revolves around platforming and puzzle solving, navigating death traps and fighting crazy animals. When you’re tired of exploring the theater, you can dive into a host of multiplayer modes. BattleBlock Theater is a wonderful platformer not meant to be taken seriously, and made even better when you play with friends.
It’s out now. For 1200 MSP, you can buy it and start playing it right away if you’d like. Funny thing about that, though — that should be old news. And it would be if The Behemoth had followed through with its plan to release BattleBlock Theater on XBLA back in 2010. Obviously, things didn’t quite work out that way, with the beat-em-up platformer having only just released yesterday. What happened? How could the developer have been so confident about 2010 that it was ready to tell the world that was the year and then ultimately be unable to finish BattleBlock Theater until three more calendar years passed it by?
Level Designer Ryan Horn has an explanation: the game wasn’t as fun as the team thought it was going to be. “I think we were hopeful about where the game was gonna be when we [planned] to release it,” he tells XBLAFans while sitting down for an interview at last month’s PAX East. “And then in between the time when we announced [the release window] and when we planned to release it at the time, we saw the game going in a direction that was fun, but we realized that we could take it in a slightly different direction that was going to be a lot more fun.”
With Horn having said his piece, studio President and co-founder John Baez expounds upon why The Behemoth felt its game could reach a state in 2010 that was up to The Behemoth’s considerably high standards of fun. Instead of going back to 2010, though, he looks a little deeper into his past. “The other component of [the delay] is that in our previous experience — I mean, Alien Hominid? Fifteen months, two consoles. Done out the door with an Xbox [version] following three months after that,” he begins. “And then Castle, it’s like, ‘OK, bigger game, three years.’” The prevailing feeling around The Behemoth’s San Diego office during the earlier development phase of Game #3, as BattleBlock was codenamed back then, was that it would not be as an ambitious of an undertaking as Castle Crashers.