Battletoads feels like another best-enjoyed-with-Game-Pass title


Don’t write it off completely if you aren’t feeling the art style

Battletoads is alive and well in 2019 – or something like that. After a round of cameo appearances, the cult-classic brawler series is set for a return on Xbox One with an unmistakable new look.

Microsoft lifted the lid during its press conference and, ahead of E3, we tried our hand at the upcoming title. I took down a bunch of rats, wailed on a pig boss, dodged barriers and dashed around drop-offs on a hoverbike, and confirmed that Pimple is, in fact, still my toad hero of choice. Love that big lug.

If you caught the debut trailer, you’ve more or less seen what I played. Rare and Dlala Studios brought a two-level demo to E3 one section focused on the staple side-scrolling beat-’em-up action, complete with outlandish morph attacks, and another featured a forward-facing hoverbike sequence.

Let’s just say I’m glad I had another player backing me up. (Battletoads has three-player couch co-op, with drop-in, drop-out support.) Neither of us could survive the gauntlet the whole way through in one go, but collectively, we managed thanks to some good old pattern recognition and nail-bitting respawns. There’s a bit of a cooldown on respawning, so you can’t just brute force your way through.

Battletoads Xbox One hoverbike level

As for the beat-’em-up level, it seemed… fine? Yeah, let’s go with fine. It got the job done.

Pulling foes into reach with my extendable tongue, stringing together combos, trying not to get lost in the sheer amount of stuff happening on-screen – it was all sufficiently engaging. And actually, the art direction divisive and arguably off-brand as it is for long-time fans – was maybe my favorite part of the demo. I loved how expressive the toads were, particularly their elaborate transforming attacks.

I think Battletoads is ultimately going to come down to how much variety there is from level to level, scene to scene, set piece to set piece. If the developers can get that part right, they should end up with a game worth seeking out with a friend or two. As is, it’s too early to call from my limited time, but I am confident in saying it will at least clear the worth-trying-with-Xbox-Game-Pass hurdle. (The release date is TBD right now, but Battletoads will be included at launch.) Playing this at E3 brought me right back into the days of Xbox Live Arcade, for better or worse. Try to set your expectations accordingly.