Battletoads (Xbox One) Review

By Sandy Kirchner-Wilson 20.08.2020

Review for Battletoads on Xbox One

The first Battletoads came out back in 1991 on the NES. Developed by Rare, it was a solid little game that had a rock-hard difficulty that put a lot of players off. It spawned a couple of sequels, but the last game was released in 1994 - Battletoads: Arcade, which was generally well received. 26 years later, though, Rare is back with Battletoads, which is a full reboot of the franchise. Built in conjunction with Dlala Studios, it's more than a retro throwback, it's a crazy new beat 'em up. Let's punch it!

Zits, Rash, and Pimple return in a flashy and bombastic first level that highlights the new style and aesthetic this reboot is taking on. It's reminiscent of Battletoads: Arcade but now with voice acting, cut-scenes, and some great 2020 game features to bring the series up to date. The three titular heroes are washed up and lost in fantasy when the game kicks off. They are stuck fantasising about their heroic past, letting players run and smash during a flashy tutorial level that pulls no punches before suddenly and unceremoniously being pulled out of their fantasies and going back to being washed up and poor. This gives the developers the freedom to experiment with other gameplay styles. Act 1:2 is a montage of incredibly hilarious minigames that have an emphasis on repetitive tasks being completed quickly, and Act 1:3 is everyone's least favourite hoverbike levels, just like in the original game. It's a great and varied intro that is not only very difficult but also somehow not frustrating as expected, since the game lacks a life system, opting instead for checkpointing only.

Screenshot for Battletoads on Xbox One

For anyone who played Arcade all those years ago, they will be instantly familiar with the gameplay here. Light punches, heavy punches, specials, and morph moves strung together into a variety of combos; it's incredibly responsive to play and very satisfying to fight. Enemy variety is rather ace, too, with many different types per level and many variations on one theme, with guarding enemies and tanks. It's really designed to keep players on their toes in single-player or co-op modes.

As stated before, the difficulty can be incredibly unforgiving, with very short dodge windows, enemy management, and hard-hitting bosses meaning that death will be your friend throughout. Luckily, the developer opted not to include a life system, allowing players to keep smashing into a wall till they break through, and in co-op there is a revival mechanic that allows for some risk and reward during harder encounters.

Screenshot for Battletoads on Xbox One

The hoverbike levels from the original make a return here, but from a shifted perspective. This time it's played from behind the bike and it is both incredibly satisfying to master and absolutely hilarious to lose. In co-op this can get quite ridiculous as all players smash into objects, lose track of their toad during the frenetic action, and generally get drunk on adrenaline and laughter. It's a fantastic old time!

The local couch co-op gameplay is a feature that totally elevates this - although a certain pandemic may make it hard to use right now. Playing with up to three players is not only more fun but makes even the most insurmountable levels devolve into laughing fits and an adrenaline-fuelled "one-more-try" mindset. It's the way to play, if you can do. In single-player, things are still fun, but the bosses are significantly tougher. When playing co-op, each person controls a toad individually meaning it's essential to play as a team in the brawling levels. In single-player mode, however, you can tag in and out toads, depending on which gameplay style best suits the challenge. Oh, that's right, each toad controls differently with a faster but weaker, large but slower, and a middle ground character as you might expect. This adds an element of strategy in single-player, though. Each toad has its own flashy morph attacks and, to be honest, while they are flashy and powerful, it's hard to understand the reasons behind what the morphs are, from chicken hands to weird werewolf type moves.

Screenshot for Battletoads on Xbox One

Where the game initially missteps is the absolutely bizarre humour that will fail to land for some, until the very end of Act 1:1 at least, where the game pulls a fast one on the main characters. The dialogue is cringey, delivered in a rather unpleasant rhythm and generally a bit 'off.' Maybe it's a sign of age that the cruder humour doesn't land, yet still the subversive humour, and the lengths the game goes to make things awkward is just stunning to behold. It legitimately brings out some genuinely deep belly laughs, which happens rarely in this climate of serious big open world adventure titles. The toads, for instance, must get regular jobs for one level and the game makes players live through each toad's job. It's spectacularly comical and lands far better than expected. This style of humour is then used throughout the rest of the adventure, which will be to many people's delight.

Sound-wise, it makes fantastic use of the Battletoads soundtrack. Smashing your ears with heavy electric guitars as soon as the game loads up and featuring some genuinely head bobbingly fun tracks. This really helps carry the fun atmosphere through every level. More than once you will find the music so distractingly great that hoverbikes careen off into the scenery, as you drift off into some form of trance. The sublime sound is paired with some shiny and rather stylish visuals. Calling right back to the other games in the series, the designs of the toads are similar, although not the same as their Arcade variants. Also, enemies, levels, and cut-scenes benefit from the same stylings and attention to detail as the main characters. There are eye-melting amounts of colour on show, from vibrant pinks and golds, to more industrial grey-blues and browns. Never was there an occasion where the player characters blend into the background, allowing for plenty of action without those in control being confused. It's a visually very competent game, only really overshadowed by the smoothness of Streets of Rage 4, which came out only a few months ago.

Screenshot for Battletoads on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Battletoads is a retro comeback that not only revives the much-loved series for fans, but one that elevates it to new heights! Truly, the development team has worked some magic to make this the best it can be, truly knocking it out of the park. There is very little wrong here that can stop from this being a star recommendation. The small amounts of missteps it does have don't hurt the experience in a meaningful way, leaving this to be an absolutely fantastic retro revival. It's great to see Rare credited on a game that is genuinely great.




Microsoft Game Studios


2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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