Despite hours of mind-numbing effort, I could not conquer “Battletoads” as a kid. The 1991 beat-’em up is notorious for its difficulty, requiring superhuman reflexes and monkish levels of patience.
Tackling it on the NES or Xbox One is torture. Thumbs will ache, controllers will be thrown, tears will be shed and curses will reverberate through the house. Yet “Battletoads” is revered among core gamers. Half the allure was its advanced visuals for the 8-bit age, but the other part was that challenge — it was fun and rewarding to burgeoning masochists.
A new “Battletoads” has finally arrived, almost 26 years after the franchise’s last entry. Developed by Dlala Studios and Rare, it has a drastically different look and updated gameplay. To some fans it could seem apocryphal with its voiced characters and hand-drawn graphics, but after dying a few times on a turbo bike level and yelling expletives, they’ll feel at home.
“Battletoads” looks like a playable cartoon in the style of “Ren and Stimpy” or the “Fairy OddParents.” Rash, Zitz and Pimple each have exaggerated features that separate them on screen. They also have unique sets of moves and attributes. Pimple, the burly one, moves slower but packs a punch while Rash is more agile and relies on splashier moves. Zitz is the best all-around fighter.
The campaign begins with the Battletoads walking down the red carpet like celebrities, beating up the occasional ne’er-do-well. This introduction teaches players new moves, as well as the basics. Soon, though, the trio realizes they’ve been stuck in a virtual dome for more than two decades. Now they’re nobodies who have to get a day job. It’s a far cry from the Battletoads’ heyday, when they were knocking the Dark Queen into outer space and saving the galaxy.
The developers play off that self-awareness to excellent effect. It has a wry sense of humor as it puts the washed-up warriors in menial jobs, which are essentially mini games. Overall, the fisticuffs are more complex, but the new moves don’t always work well. While “Battletoads” crackles with energy and creativity, it is nowhere near perfect.
Platform: Xbox One and PC.
Rating: Everyone 10 and up.