Hands-on: Battleblock Theater (XBLA)

Battleblock Theater, the Castle Crashers followup unofficially known as "The Crying Leprechaun Game," was available in one distinct play mode at PAX East: a multiplayer team deathmatch variant that centered around eating souls. It's the bright, colorful and playful kind of evil you might imagine is okay in most Saturday morning cartoons, and it's exactly the patented style we've come to identify as "The Behemoth Touch."

The basic format of the demo was a 2-on-2 team deathmatch gametype, in which cute little blue blockheads (they looked like a cross between a cat and a bear) try to defeat cute little red things of the same origin. By jumping onto an opponent's head, he (she? it?) is effectively killed, releasing a ghost or spirit that can be captured. Once you grab the escaping ethereal being and hold on to it, points slowly accumulate on the scoreboard -- all the while, a timer gradually counts down to zero. This is a straightforward affair of ghost-napping.
The demo took place on a multi-tiered 3D map, and the gameworld had a "Mayan ruin" look. It was very yellow and had that kind of vibe like it was a place that hadn't been touched for centuries, overrun by vines and only visited by the occasional beast you could spot peeking through some errant foliage. As such, it made for a suitable locale for an eternal war between red and blue, encouraging plenty of platforming and running about to line up the perfect head stomp -- there was ample free space to bounce about.

Controlling each character is just as simple as the presentation and game mode, as moving about the map is handled via the left analog stick. I pretty much only needed the A-button (to jump), but I could also slap other characters; though that didn't have much use in this mode. This simplistic control scheme provided some needed grounding for the whole experience, which tends toward the frenetic chaos of most "party games."

Perhaps the intent of this brief demo at PAX East was to leave me wanting more, and that's exactly what it did through its inspired blend of classic 2D gaming and party-based multiplayer. This one game mode just wasn't enough to satiate my need for more Battleblock Theater.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.