In BattleBlock Theater, players control a prisoner as they are forced to play through games devised by Hatty Hattington. Controls are simple, with the game largely consisting of running, jumping and punching. Levels are made up of various types of blocks, such as collapsing blocks, sticky walls, bouncy volcanic rocks and deadly spikes, and also feature hazards such as water and deadly creatures.
The main mode in the game is Adventure Mode, which can be played solo or co-operatively with a second player. This mode can be played either in normal mode (with checkpoints) or insane mode (no checkpoints, meaning if the player dies, they have to restart the level). During co-operative play, players are able to work together to overcome obstacles, which includes throwing them across gaps, using their heads as platforms and helping each other get up ledges, although there is just as much opportunity of partner sabotage. Adventure mode consists of various worlds each with a set of levels. In order to progress to the next world, players need to collect gems which can also be used to unlock new customizable parts and complete a 'Boss Level' (timed level). Players can also collect balls of yarn which they can use to bribe cat guards and unlock new weapons, such as frisbees and vacuum cleaners. Collecting all gems and the yarn with a time good enough to get the clock stamp will get the player an A++ in the level and two extra gems.
In some levels, players can also have a chance to get a golden hat, which pops up in a random location at a random time, and are each worth ten extra gems. However, when the player dies, the golden hat they are carrying will stay at the point they had died (or be destroyed, depending on where it lands) until the player picks it up again.
Arena mode is a competitive mode for up to four players, which is played in teams of 2. There are several match types including:
- Soul Snatcher: Steal an enemy soul and run away. Capture and hold the enemy's souls to gain points. Kill or step on a carrier to release their souls to roam the level.
- Muckle: Beat and kill the enemy team to earn the players' team points.
- Challenge: Score the best time on a given level.
- King Of The Hill: Stand on the crown blocks to gain the player's team points.
- Color The World: Color more blocks than the other team.
- Grab The Gold: Grab more gold from the golden whale than the other team and deposit it in the flying safe to score points for the player's team.
- Ball Game: Get the ball in the basket.
- Capture The Horse: Ride the opposing team's horse to the team's stables to gain points for the player's team.
Along with a Time Attack mode, the game also features a Level Editor, which allows players to create their own stages for any game type. These levels can be assembled into a playlist, consisting of various Adventure and Arena levels, and uploaded to the community for others to download. There is also additional content unlocked for players who also own Castle Crashers and Alien Hominid HD.
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