Today is the first day of E3 and I have already played what I think will be my favorite game of the show. One year ago during the Xbox E3 briefing, the world got its first tease of a Battletoads reboot. Once I saw that logo pop up on screen I totally lost it. Ryan Welch can attest to that as I was sitting next to him and nearly elbowed the poor man in all my excitement.
Since then I have been incredibly eager to know more about the game. What would its art style be? Would it still have couch co-op? Will it still be super difficult? What of the “turbo tunnel”? What of it?!
As you can tell, my hype levels for this game were at critical levels. So when I was at the 2019 Xbox E3 briefing (once again sitting next to Ryan), and that glorious trailer played, I was instantly ready to go hands on. Then my hopes were dashed when I saw that there was no release date revealed at the end of the trailer. Typically games revealed at E3 with no release date means there likely will not be a playable demo.
Later at during the Xbox Showcase (a more intimate event held after the briefing) I received a text from Ryan: “I heard Battletoads was playable!!!” I immediately stopped everything I was doing and scoured the whole Showcase stage hoping that Ryan was right. Then, alas, nestled in a corner, was a Battletoads booth, complete with a couch. With no line to boot!
Now, after all that hope, enthusiasm, and hype, wouldn’t it be a shame if Battletoads was a total disappointment once I went hands on? Ha! Had you going there didn’t I? I had an absolute BLAST! Though I do have to temper my expectations. I only played a short slice of the game. But the amount of fun I had during that time is a very good indicator for the future.
First thing’s first. The new art style is definitely different than what many of us remember. Although, the art style I’m most used to when it comes to Battletoads is 8-bit pixel art from my NES. This new art style reminds me a lot of the current “Rise Of The Ninja Turtles” cartoon currently airing on Nickelodeon. Personally I don’t think that art style works too well for the turtles but it suits the toads nicely.
The color palette is bright and vivid. Everything pops and it oozes the appeal of a Saturday morning cartoon in the best way. Each toad has a unique design making them unique (mostly, more on that later). Rash still has his trademark sunglasses, Pimple is still the biggest toad and has his tell tale spiked bracelets, and Zitz has his cross-chest holster.
The animation style is fluid but also utilizes traditional cartoon techniques like deforming blurs and warping to accentuate action. I believe the game runs at 60fps and it will be Xbox One X enhanced so 4K gameplay is on the table.
So, how did it play? Very much like the original but with more combat elements added to increase the depth of the action. I really think that the developers want to encourage players to be creative with their combat. One of the first indicators of that is the combo counter that pops up when fighting enemies.
It goes much deeper than that though. In the original NES game, the Battletoads only used their long tongues for catching flies to regenerate energy. This time, their tongues have been weaponized and are a major combat element. The tongue is used in two ways: you can use it to bring yourself closer to an enemy or to snag an enemy and bring them closer to you. This works even if an enemy is in the air.
Speaking of air, each toad can perform a launcher so that they can execute air combos! There are air combos in Battletoads now!
We also can’t forget the trademark “morphing” of the limbs used to add an exclamation point to combat. Though this time, instead of it automatically happening at the end of a combo, players can trigger them at any time. I won’t spoil them because they are pretty funny, but I think many of you will be impressed.
The playable demo was composed of three segments. A beat ’em up level, followed by a boss battle hilariously named “Porkshank”, and finally the last level was what we’ve all been waiting for. A return of the hoverbikes in a reboot of the legendary “turbo tunnel”.
However, there is one major difference. Rather than the action taking place from a side-view, with movement being up and down; in this game the camera is behind the toads, and the player must dodge left and right to avoid obstacles.
There is a dash move to avoid objects at the last moment if needed. And trust me, you’ll need it. This take on the turbo tunnel is infinitely more difficult than the controller smashing level you remember. But the beautiful part about it is that its punishment does not feel “cheap”.
The key to making it through is quick reaction time and memorization, because you will die several times. To take the edge off, there are checkpoints. For the very hardcore, please note that using the checkpoints is optional.
As much as I loved this short experience, it was not perfect. There are definitely some things that I found troublesome. First off, it seems that the toads can’t run anymore. This means there are no running attacks that finish off with the ram horns or the big boot. I hope that the developers at Dlala see fit to add that mechanic back in if it truly is missing.
The other issue I had was during the hover bike stage. During my play session I had a co-op partner with me. For the most part the multiplayer element felt great, and teaming up on baddies was natural. However, when it came to the bikes, we often became confused about which toad was which. Because of the perspective of the level and the speed of the action, it is really easy to get mixed up when there is more than one player on the screen. Sometimes there were indicators and sometimes there was not. For now, I am going to chalk that up to an early build bug.
We never did make it past the hover bike level but we had so much fun we honestly didn’t care. The only significant downside to the entire experience is that we still do not have a release date. Words can’t express just how much I need to play the final version of this game. For now, waiting is almost as frustrating as the turbo tunnel. Almost…
In the meantime, you can watch the Battletoads trailer in case you missed it. Afterwards, let us know what you think about the Dlala reboot of Battletoads in the comments!