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loogslair.com I feel asleep!


Year released: 1992
Company: Rare/Tradewest
Genre: Beat-em-up... supposedly

Scientists believe that evolution did not occur in a slow, steady flow. They call it a punctuated equilibrium: the theory that there are points where the advancement of life makes a quick spurt. It stands to reason, then, that we could compare the fall of video games as having a similar slide. There are games that bring the state of gaming further into the quagmire with pointed speed. Battletoads is one of those games. Not because it was remarkably horrible - it is, but that's not the whole equation - but because it was a bad game that was accompanied with a huge amount of fanfare. It's bad enough that the game fails paritcularly in the elements that no game should fail in, but when we were all told it was supposed to become the be-all-end-all of NES titles, its failure was made even more prominent.

What was probably the cause of all the hype is the game's graphics. Yep, this game laid the groundwork for the "graphics vs. gameplay" argument, and the visuals are beautifully done. The scenery contributes volumes to the atmosphere, the use of parallax scrolling works well, the animation flows nicely, and the 'Toads special moves are portrayed in the cartoonish fashion they were aiming for. Certainly, eye-candy was top priority for the programmers, as they did quite a good job making the game look very nice. Unfortunately, things go downhill from there. As far as the music is concerned, there's only one theme - the Turbo Tunnel - that I can remember a few days after playing. The only music outside of that theme that's noteworthy, though, has that quality because it's so bad - the music that plays while one's game is paused. Now, I'm of the philosophy that there shouldn't be any music playing while the game's on hold, but the muffled booms and bumps are enough to drive even the most mild-mannered gamer insane.

Not even the Play Control, which I'm often lenient on as long as it isn't too terrible, manages to salvage an average score in the technical phylum.1 As far as the fighting controls are concerned, the 'Toads practice reverse recoil - that is, whenever they punch or kick an enemy, they like to drift off in that direction. You can imagine what might happen when you're close to the edge of a cliff. Moreover, one's jumps are rather floaty, which is virtual suicide as deadly spikes seem to grace every jump from level 4 on, and the special moves that the 'Toads use to finish off opponents - the only other selling point of the game - don't seem as prominent as advertised.

Most of that is because this is a fighting game where, oddly enough, very little fighting takes place. In fact, out of the 13 levels in the game, only 7 of them are fully devoted towards the pummeling of enemies. And even then, most of those stages require more acrobatic skill than brute force. This would not be such a big problem, if not for three things: First, the hit detection is so touchy that your jumps often have to be perfect or else your 'Toad loses a life; Second, losing a life in most levels pushes you back to an earlier spot, forcing you to overcome prior hardships to get back to the spot where you died in the first place; and Third, the amount of lives and continues offered are severely limited. True, the obstacle course levels can become somewhat manageable if you have the patience to memorize the patterns in those levels, but when you lose all of your lives after being skewered on the same spike ball over and over again, just how much patience are you going to have left?

As for the storyline of this game, I think Battletoads can be compared to the new kid in school who somehow expects instant adulation. I say this because the game appears to be an extension of a wildly successful cartoon, comic book, or line of toys. Only problem is, Battletoads hadn't had a successful cartoon, comic book, or line of toys before the game was released.2 As a result, they expect me to know everything about the 'Toads, their personalities, their friends and their foes. But I didn't, and when I learned that Pimple and a Princess are captured by an evil Dark Queen, my reaction to this initial turn of events could be summed up into two words: "Who're they?" Every story, be it a movie, novel, or video game needs an exposition, and Battletoads doesn't provide one. Thus, I find it difficult to get behind the heroes - especially when I know that succeeding in this game is darn near impossible.

But you know what? I would be forgiving of most of this - the extremely high level of challenge, the absence of backstory, the mislabeling of the game's genre - if at the end of the game we were rewarded with a terrific ending. An extra-long credit roll, a kiss from the Princess, Madonna's home phone number, something to make all the work we've put into the game worthwhile. So, with Game Genie firmly inserted between the game and the console, I laid the Dark Queen to waste and sat back, waiting to bask in the glory of a long road having been completed.

I'm still waiting.

Not only did none of the three requests come to fruition during the ending - no credits, no kiss, no phone number - but all I was treated to was just about the same banter the Queen and the heroes' mentor had batted back and forth at the beginning of each level. It's like someone winning an arm wrestling match against the Incredible Hulk,3 only to get a nickel for their efforts.

To sum up, Battletoads screwed just about everything up, save for the pretty pictures in the game. It is an abominably hard game with no reason to root for your alter ego and no incentive to complete it. I have yet to talk to a person who hasn't fled in terror after playing this stinker.

1. Thank you, Willyman, for giving me a word to describe each category so I don't have to use "facet" and "aspect" all the time.

2. No, the Nintendo Power comic doesn't count. When a third party has to make up an origin of your heroes (and not all that good of one at that), it looks awful tacky.

3. Hey, gotta squeeze him into this review somehow.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 11
Challenge: (Hard)
Thrill: (Frustrating)
Aesthetic Score: 5
Overall Score: 38%