BattleBlock Theater Preview

The Behemoth is far from the lumbering monstrosity that the name implies.  The Behemoth is actually the indie developer of the cult hit Alien Hominid, and the wildly popular downloadable multiplayer beat ‘em up Castle Crashers. Both were sleeper hits, created by a small and ironically-named team.  Their next game, Battle Block Theater uses the same cartoon cutesiness and bloody mayhem that marked their previous titles.

The premise of Battle Block Theater is that the characters have become shipwrecked on an island ruled by insane cats. Betrayed by the greedy Hatty Hattington (Who does indeed wear a hat), these survivors are sold out to the demented felines who then insist that these “Prisoners” perform in a series of plays for the amusement of their fuzzy overlords.

Each of the levels in Battle Block Theater is one such play, and an audience of cats appears in the foreground expressing their delight as the players scramble for their lives.

We got some hands-on time with it at PAX Prime where a sizable portion of the game was on display.  As with Castle Crashers, players can select from a group of different characters who each have different special moves, and pick the one that best suits their playstyle, then team up to try to make it through the deadly theater. The characters can jump, fight hand-to-hand, and use projectiles, but will also come across temporary power-ups like wings.

Levels occur on a series of 2-D sets that are built with different kinds of blocks.  Each type of block has a different property; some are simple walls and floors, while others bounce players upwards, activate nearby items, or inflict various forms of damage

Players can expect many horrible deaths that all have accompanying cute cartoon animations.  These hapless characters will meet their end due to environmental hazards, or from enemies, and frequently from each other.

By “Accident” of course.

But it’s okay to kill a friend, because respawn points are liberally distributed and, as long as one player reaches the next objective, the team can continue making progress even if they frequently kill each other (Be it inadvertently, or just for the fun of seeing a dear friend drown in a water block).

Battle Block Theater can be played solo, but this sort of chaotic co-operative environment naturally works best as a multiplayer game, much as Castle Crashers does.  Adding to the multiplayer fun is the Level Editor that was recently announced.  With this, players will be able to make their own maps using the various blocks and share these creations online.

Behemoth fans will be also able to download a DLC pack for Castle Crashers called Can’t Stop Crying that arrives at the same time as Battle Block Theater.  This DLC pack will give Castle Crashers a new playable character, Battle Block’s Hatty Hattington, along with a new whale animal orb, and three new weapons.

Unfortunately, Battle Block Theater doesn’t have an official release date yet, but it will arrive sometime in 2013 for Xbox 360.  Other platforms are not yet confirmed.  Check back with Explosion.com for more.