We are definitely in a video game age where remakes and reboots of old classics are all the rage. Of course, the word classic is a pretty flexible description. For instance, have you ever heard of the Battletoads before? Yes? No? Maybe?
Well, these aggressive amphibians were the focus of a number of relatively popular beat ’em up video games that started in 1991. At the pinnacle of the toads’ modest success, they almost became an animated TV show. Yep, three anthropomorphic fist-swinging toads named after skin conditions: There’s Pimple, the most powerful but slowest of the trio; Rash, the smallest and quickest; and Zitz, who erupts forth as the leader and is a balanced battler.
You could say they, uh, popped up as a response to a certain group of mutant Turtles who were popular at the time.
If you’re still trying to dredge up some memory of this game crew, then you might be wondering who exactly this new entry is made for. And that’s a good question since this is probably one of the most bizarre collections of game genres, quirky character-driven humor and hold-on-by-the-rasp-of-your-tongue crazy storylines that you’re apt to find.
The game starts out with the toad bros finding out that they’ve been trapped in a bunker for the last 26 years, unknowingly living a simulated life where they’re beloved beat-the-bad-guy heroes. They were imprisoned there by some villainous entity that obviously wanted them mindlessly tucked out of the way while unspooling a decades-long evil plot.
Once the toads crawl out into our current future, however, they realize that they’re unknown in this new world. And after about 4000 job interviews, they’re pretty much good for nothing in a world where thumping something with a green scaley foot doesn’t impact things like it used to.
The only way to become bona fide, baddie-bopping sensations once more is to seek out their former nemesis, the Dark Queen. Surely, once they put a little toad-hurt on her, the world will recognize their heroic value once more.
But it turns out that super-powerful, rotten royal has been trapped somewhere for decades and left on a back burner of the stove of life, too. Who could be powerful enough to do all this? It’s time for the bounding, brawny and beautiful (in a manner of speaking) Battletoads to solve this mystery and save humanity!
The game itself isn’t actually all that long—playing out something akin to a five or six hour, ever-flowing, fully voiced cartoon show from the’90s. But it offers quite a few different gaming genres to play through.
There’s the beat-’em-up side of things, with options for a three-player co-op or the choice of tagging in and out as one of the three toady heroes. Each has his own specialty ability moves, ranging from hitting foes with a rubber chicken or some boom-box percussion, to transforming into an ape or a steam engine for a flurry of bashes.
Players can stack combos, as well as drawing in opponents or swinging to the background of a stage through the use of a long, sticky tongue. And, of course, there are scores and scores of foes that flood the stage with special shocking or thumping powers, forcing you to keep dashing, dodging and moving, while prioritizing which powerful foe to take out first.
Then there are the other game types packed in like a fever-dream rush among the campy gags and toad-driven quips. Sometimes the toads jump on speedy motor bikes and have to jump, duck and swerve their way through an obstacle course littered with pipes, blockades and pitfalls.
Other times they’re picking off space invaders in a Galaxian-like hyper-blaster or bounding through various platform challenges Players also face plenty of environmental mini-games that they’ll have to puzzle out. And in the end, success might all come down to this trio of toad bros trying to solve an argument with an odd Battletoads version of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
All of these various challenges are wrapped up in a madcap story that somehow ends up making sense while it batters you with quip-filled humor.
It’s that quirky gush of humor, though, that might give parents pause at times with this T-rated title. There’s no bloody mess to worry over and the language stays in the range of uses of “crap,” “friggin’,” “oh my god,” “gosh darn” and multiple references to butts. Oh, and there is one blurred-out crude hand gesture in here, too.
It’s the jokey dialogue spew, however, that can venture into some cringy areas. You’ve got adult-diaper giggles, pukey japes and jokes about everything from the joys of foul language to the animation of anatomically correct toys. And there are even a few spiritually focused jests in the mix, too.
For instance, early on in the game the toads best a boss who calls out, “And so I finally pass into the afterlife … Wait! There’s nothing here!” And as he spirals into oblivion he screams: “Make the most of the time you have!”
So, there you have it. Some will find Battletoads to be rather infectious, others will like be left scratching their heads wondering what that was all about.
But one thing’s for sure, there are no half-measures with these offbeat throwback battlers. You’re either gonna love ‘em or hate ‘em.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.