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Hands-On: Battleblock Theater [Comic-Con 2011]

[Ken Ellis begins our foray into video coverage in a short but stout series of written and video recorded Comic-Con 2011 previews. We start off with an updated look at The Behemoth's latest: Battleblock Theater. Make sure to check out our revealing interview with Project Manager Emil Ayoubkhan for more info on all things Behemoth as well. Additionally, you can check out our production team's YouTube channel to watch all the indie game footage we were able to run down this past weekend in San Diego.]

This year at Comic-Con a lot of game developers brought game demos, but The Behemoth did one better and brought arcade cabinets of their upcoming release Battleblock Theater. If there was a better way of showing off a game, I don’t want to know it!

The games premise is that a race of tyrannical, but socially refined cats have captured a group of unwary individuals. These feline abductors have them run through deadly obstacle courses that are displayed on a “stage” so all the cat people can enjoy a spot of upscale theatrical fun. The theater theme to the game is used humorously with level intros done in the style of grainy silent film from the early 40′s and load screens displaying cardboard cutout puppets of your character jumping after cardboard gems. Even some level environment items appear as cutouts of grass or explosions.

The game is played as a one to four player game, with each having options for selecting their character’s look and a specialty weapon for them to use in the level like boomerangs or bombs. These weapons are friendly-fire-friendly, so watch out or you may send your friend into a shallow grave. Though not for long since each player has infinite lives and can come back continuously through a level. This plays out in the end of the level where each player is reviewed on his theatrical merit, so helping each other out or screwing your friend until the end is up to you.

As the game’s name suggests there is an abundance of blocks primarily because all the levels are constructed from a wide variety of the darn things. Lava blocks, Smoke blocks, Grenade blocks, and every which way blocks appear in the game to either help or hinder your progress. Couple that with a variety of enemies such as gentlemen cats, birds, ravenous deer-raccoons, and the dreaded walking toast. Don’t rely on your ability to respawn infinitely, as each level is timed and a bad time can cost you the better mark on your level review.

While a far cry in genre terms from their last beat-em-up title (Castle Crashers), Battleblock Theater looks like its going to be another hit for the fast growing company. Keep an eye out for it when it releases on the XBLA.

Photos and Video Captured by Kevin Harland.