"Battletoads" & "SOMA" - Games That Ate Up My Summer

The ‘eh, it’s cool I guess’ special!

“Battletoads” (2020) by Dlala Studios and Rare Ltd

Brawlers are far before my time, so maybe I’m just not the target audience for this game, but man, the brawler design philosophy is such garbage no wonder it’s as extinct as the dinosaurs. I haven’t played the other Battletoads games, so I didn’t have any preconceptions on what this game would play like going into it, all I knew is that it was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tone of brawler game and that the marketing said that the game is “genre-bending”, and both of those statements are pretty accurate, so I guess if you’re sold on that premise then you are the target audience here. I think they wanted to get the Frog Fractions kind of “experimental indie games” crowd in for this game, but this game is nothing like Frog Fractions for a number of reasons.

First of all, Battletoads feels too professional, the slick animation and punchy cartoony visuals are the only part of the experience that feels “raw”, everything else about the game, the gameplay, the writing, the voice acting and the music all feel so clinical and calculated to be “80s nostalgic but also modern Rick and Morty humour” to the point where it’s almost a parody of what it’s trying to achieve. The brawler design philosophy, in my opinion, just does not work in 2020 (or at the very least, Battletoads implementation of it is bad). I find that the gameplay loop of spamming the same 3 attacks to kill an entire room of enemies kind of boring, and at times frustrating. Some of the enemies/rooms feel like they weren’t playtested too; if I were to plot the difficulty curve it would look like a hospital heart rate monitor - constantly jumping up and down in the most predictable but annoying way. Also on the “normal” difficulty, I found that there just weren’t enough heals to go around during the brawler sections, I felt like the amount of time I spent playing the game could’ve been halved if I didn’t keep dying to random stuff (the hitboxes are also a bit weird in the brawler sections, you feel like you should hit stuff sometimes but you just don’t). The genre-bending mentioned earlier also doesn’t even really feel all that innovative or experimental because they chose to only play with “80s arcade” types of genres, like bullet-hell, platforming, and arcadey racers, and even then the implementation of those genres feels just like the bare minimum to recognise that “yes, that is the ___ genre”.

The visual design of everything is great though if you like the “American teen cartoon” kind of aesthetic. It feels modern enough where I can imagine most people would say “damn this game looks pretty good”. Nice punchy colours, thick strokes for contrast, and I will say that most of the backgrounds looked really great. Character design-wise, I hate the main three Battletoads, everything about their existence offends me, but everyone else looks pretty decent. I like the Dark Queen character the most, even though as I said earlier all the writing feels sanitised and overly safe. That said though, I thought the main villains were funny and well written enough. As usual, I won’t spoil the story, but I will say that it sags in the middle a lot and rushes towards the end.

Battletoads (2020) is available on Steam/Windows Store for PC, and Xbox One and is “"”fine””“

“SOMA” (2015) by Frictional Games

A spooky game, I don’t play many of those, but I was told that SOMA is one of the most immersive games around (back in 2015). I only got around to playing it this summer, and while yes it is quite immersive, the environment design is very very very very good, I genuinely feel like I’m stuck at the bottom of the ocean every time I step outside, it doesn’t feel all that scary most of the time because you’re inside buildings and can’t see the outside. Also most of the time there is no threat, occasionally there will be a big spooky loud noise and the lights will cut out and make you jump (there’s a big monster that comes along with those cues), once the threat is gone, it’s gone for a pretty long time. I also found that some of the puzzles feel kind of un-intuitive, but that might just be that I’m bad with puzzles.

The story is actually very intriguing, I haven’t really figured out what’s happening yet because I haven’t completed the game (and probably wont to be fair, I just don’t find it all that fun), but the themes are interesting and suit the rest of the game pretty well.

Anyway, I didn’t have a lot to say about this game, but if you’re interested in playing a sci-fi horror game with a decent story and great level design (for the most part), I can recommend SOMA.

SOMA is available on Steam for PC/Mac/Linux, Playstation 4 and Xbox One and is probably worth playing if you like a good sci-fi spook.