BattleBlock Theater is the third game from indie game development company, The Behemoth. The game was vaguely inspired by the Alien Hominid minigame "PDA Games" where you traverse single screen levels collecting gems, solving puzzles and jumping on FBI agents. Originally announced on March 17th, 2009, the game finally saw a release on the Xbox Live Marketplace on April 3rd, 2013 for 1200 MSP (approximately $15 USD).
Having shipwrecked on a mysterious island you find yourself and all of your friends both betrayed by your all-around bestest friend Hatty Hattington and captured by the locals, vicious cats who take control of Hatty's mind and force you into deadly performances in their theater. This, however, is just the beginning of your problems.
BattleBlock Theater's puzzle platforming gameplay involves navigating through levels collecting gems to open and reach the exit. The bare minimum number of gems to open the exit is three, but more gems can be collected to achieve a higher letter grade. Each level also has one ball of yarn to collect. In the Gift Shop, gems can be used to unlock new prisoner faces and yarn can be used to purchase new weapons.
The primary campaign features levels designed specifically for single or co-op play. In gameplay, a context sensitive button can be used to: climb along rails, paddle boats toward you, throw your partner, and pull your partner onto high ledges. Players also can punch, push, spike, uppercut, kick, and slide kick partners or enemies in the level and also use weapons to attack enemies or traverse hard to reach places.
Levels feature obstacles such as spikes, water hazards, spinning saw blades, cannons, missile shooting robots and cats wielding a number of different weapons. Most hazards cause instant death, but the default difficulty allows for infinite respawns to previous checkpoints.
In addition to the campaign, players may compete offline or online in Arena modes with up to four players; two players on each team. Online sports both ranked and unranked matches with appropriate leaderboards for each Arena mode. Players may also construct their own levels for any Arena mode and upload them online for others to play and rate.
Multiplayer Arena Modes
The arena modes of BattleBlock Theater can be played by up to four people playing in separate teams.
- Grab the Gold - Each team must collect gold periodically released by a golden whale flying around the stage and then deposit it inside a safe which is also floating freely somewhere in the stage. Successfully banked gold become points for the team. If a player dies, all gold gathered will fall out of that player, giving the other players a chance to steal them away.
- Soul - Players try to kill members of the opposite team. Once a player dies, their soul comes out and can be held onto by the other team. A team's score constantly increases as long as they holds the soul of their opponents. The more souls held, the faster the score increases.
- Color the World - This mode has the players try to touch every single gray block in the level. When a player touches a block, it begins to blink that team's color and eventually solidifies. If the opposing team touches the block before the color solidifies they have a chance to steal it, but solid colored blocks cannot be stolen. Occasionally, the game will reset the color of various platforms, giving the losing team a chance to come back. Final score is determined by number of blocks each team has in their color.
- Ball Game - Players grab, pass, and dunk a soccer ball into the opposing team's net to win. The more you pass, the more points you earn for scoring a goal.
- King of the Hill - A traditional mode where players standing on designated golden blocks to increase the team's score. The more team members standing on the blocks, the faster the score increases. Players must use weapons and attacks to remove opposing team members from the golden blocks.
- Horse - The players must ride their horse into their stables to score points. All the while, players may also steal their opponent's horse to lead them astray.
- Muckle - Earn points by beating up your opponents senseless. Use your weapons, throw them into hazards, or even rely on your own two fists to score the most points before time runs out.
- Challenge - In this time attack mode, players race through a stage to see how fast they can clear it, or more accurately how much faster they can clear it than others. Work alone or with others to try and achieve the best time.
Beyond the basic platform block there are a number of other block types.
- Buzz Saw - Kills player and enemies instantly upon contact. Can be stationary or move back and forth.
- Spike - Kills players or enemies upon contact. Spikes can be on either of the four sides of the block. Characters impaled upon spikes can be used as temporary platforms by other players.
- Lasers - On a regular time interval projects deadly lasers which kill players and enemies instantly.
- Water - Drowns players or enemies upon contact, but can be crossed via boat. Drowning characters can be used as temporary platforms by other players.
- Clouds - Platforms that can be walked through from the side or jumped through from the bottom. Also can block lasers.
- Bomb - Temporary platforms that explode upon contact. Any additional bomb blocks adjacent to the one touched will also explode. Does not cause physical damage.
- Air Vent - Blows away or suspends players and enemies
- Catapult - Players and enemies are launched upward or to the side.
- Conveyor Belt - Moves players and enemies either left or right.
- Disappearing Blocks - Appears and disappears when toggled by pressure plates. Some levels put moving objects like saws into small enclosed chambers with the pressure plates, causing the disappearing blocks to vanish and reappear at regular intervals.
- Elevator - Moves upward when player stands on top of it.
- Fake Block - Appears to be a normal block but can be passed through; used to hide secret gems and yarn.
- Fan - Blows players and enemies back. Fans with exposed switch can be turned on/off.
- Ice - Causes players and enemies slip and slide.
- Energy Bridge - Has a pressure plate which upon activation projects a series of blocks that extend until the next closest block. Pressure plate can be activated by players or lasers.
- Hot Coals - Causes the player to go flying in the opposite direction touched, like a spring jump.
- Anti-Gravity Block - A block which can be grabbed by the player and will hold its position wherever it's left, even in mid-air.
- Climbing Rail - Has a rail on one side which can be grabbed to climb along walls or ceilings.
- Shuffle Block - Platform that periodically shifts up, down, left or right in position.
- Gum - Sticky blocks which slow down the player or can be used to stick to walls and slow descent.
- Teleporter - Teleports the player from one teleporter to any other unblocked teleporter.
Items which can be used to navigate levels or solve puzzles.
- Boat - Used to cross water hazards. Can be ridden by up to two players.
- Boulder - Boulders which can be carried and used to activate pressure plates.
- Fanpack - Used to temporarily fly upwards after pressing jump once.
- Horse - A pink, block-shaped animal that can be used to ride across spikes and water. Can also do a backwards kick to hit other players or enemies.
- Jetpack - Gives three large upward boosts by pressing the jump button in the air.
- Wings - Used to temporarily fly by repeatedly pressing the jump button.
The game features dozens of different prisoner characters which are unlocked in the gift shop by using collected gems and can be traded between players. These prisoners are divided into four categories, based on the shape of their head; Round, Cubical, Triangular, and Cylindrical, as well as a fifth "Star" category for special unlocks, such as a Castle Crashers knight or the Alien Hominid, unlocked if you have a save in their games of origin (though there is also a single head shaped like a star). The differences between prisoners are completely cosmetic, and do not change how each character plays.
Weapons are unlocked by purchasing them in the gift shop using balls of yarn collected in levels. Many can be used to either attack enemies or navigate parts of the level.
- Mine - The only weapon players start with. Mines are thrown like frisbees, and when tossed into someone, it briefly knocks them over. Players hit in the air will stop and fall straight down. A few seconds after it hits the ground, the mine explodes, killing anyone in the immediate vicinity.
- Grenade - The most straightforward weapon. Blows up a few seconds after being thrown. Can be slide kicked in other directions.
- Dart Gun - Shoots foam darts which stun characters and can be stuck to walls in order to be used as temporary platforms.
- Fireball - Shoots forward and sets players and cat enemies on fire. Fire can be extinguished by jumping into water which also causes the player to jump very high.
- Ice Cannon - Launched at an angle and bounces off of walls. Momentarily freezes anyone upon impact.
- Ball - Launched at an angle and bounces off of walls, but is effectively useless because it has no effect on characters. Can be slide kicked. Pops after a while.
- Boomerang - As any boomerang does, it comes back when thrown. Stuns anyone it hits and can be used to collect gems or yarn.
- Electric Fan - Blows back players, enemies and projectiles. Fairly useless.
- Energy Ball - An electric homage to the hadouken attack from Street Fighter which, upon impact, can send characters flying through the air.
- Acid Bubble - A green bubble which dissolves anyone it touches when hit from the bottom or sides. Can be jumped on to reach higher areas but pop upon impact.
- Vacuum - Can suck enemies towards you and also suck up projectile weapons. Sucking up an explosive projectile results in your death, making it even more useless than the fan.
- Paper Airplane - Explosive airplane that flies through the air, and detonates after pressing the weapon button a second time. Can be kicked around and be used to jump off of.
- Frog Bomb - Frog that runs along the ground/walls until in proximity of a player, enemy, or laser, then explodes.
By owning full versions of Alien Hominid HD or Castle Crashers on the XBLA, you unlock special face types of the Alien Hominid and Knight characters for use in BattleBlock Theater.
Inversely, by unlocking one achievement in BattleBlock Theater, you can also unlock a playable Hatty Hattington for use in Castle Crashers.