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Battery Jam

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Developer: Halseo
Release Date: Nov. 22, 2018 (US), Dec. 4, 2018 (EU)


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Switch Review - 'Battery Jam'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 29, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Battery Jam is a local multiplayer game of competitive territorial mayhem where you use the boombox to smash your opponents, capture their tiles, and dominate the arena!

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The PC is home to plenty of very good local multiplayer titles. Games like Brawlhalla and Tumblestone appeared on the PC first. Others are great ports, like Towerfall: Ascension, and a few like Battlesloths 2025 remain exclusive to the platform as of this writing. Battery Jam is another local multiplayer-focused game that debuted on the PC before making its way to the Switch, another system with no shortage of local multiplayer titles.

In one of Battery Jam's eight arenas, you have four bots and a nicely tiled floor. The default objective is to make it to the end of the match with the most tiles turned to your color. Otherwise, you can choose the option to win by surviving with your life stock intact or getting enough kills. Turning the tiles to your color is as simple as walking over them — but only if they haven't been turned another color before.

Once a tile has turned into one of four colors, you can either choose to raise that tile to create a wall, or you can drop the tile to expose the lava running underneath. Both of those methods are useful for eliminating foes, since an enemy standing on a raised tile will be launched into space, while those on dropped tiles will fall into lava. In both cases, the tiles around that point of death will be changed to your color. While you'll also die if you fall into the lava, you can dash over it to create a new tile that's immediately drawn in your color. The caveat is that you'll only affect the second tile away from your dash point, so you'll need to plan your dashes and dash often if you want that lava space covered up again.

Beyond tile manipulation, you have a few other available tools. You have a blaster that allows you to shoot and stun enemies on-screen, giving you more time to raise or lower the tiles they're standing on or have them helplessly watch you transform tiles. There's also a boombox that serves one of two functions. If the box is sent over and collides with an opponent, then they immediately disappear, and the colors around that point of impact change. If nothing is hit when the boombox is traveling, then the tiles around it explode and expose lava after a lengthy fuse has been consumed. Thus, wall creation becomes important since it can either mean the chance to squash an enemy early or simply protecting your tiles from getting damaged in the blast.

As you can see, there are plenty of things that can be done in the short time span of three minutes. On the one hand, this gives the game a serious amount of depth, since you can have a variety of ways to get the color you need. That variety also gives you a big element of surprise, since no one can predict what you'll do to them, and vice versa. On the other hand, the chaos it provides means that Battery Jam isn't an immediate pick-up-and-play kind of game. You'll have absolutely no idea what you're doing for the first few rounds, and it might take even longer before you understand exactly what you're doing. As such, it can take a while for people to warm up to it, and unless you have a bunch of patient people willing to take the time to learn that nuance, there's a good chance players will simply pass on the game after the first round, a trait that most other party style games tend to avoid.

One of the more surprising things about this game is that it is a bare-bones experience. As mentioned earlier, you have eight maps to choose from, and you have the ability to mess with the options — such as time limit, objective, and whether stun energy is limitless — but you only have the arena mode to play in. There are free-for-all and team variants, and you can play solo against bots of varying difficulty levels, but if you're expecting more multiplayer gameplay types or even a pseudo single-player campaign, you aren't going to find it here.

The presentation is clean to a point. The colors are bold, and the art style is fine despite not being particularly distinct. The backgrounds are also good-looking, but the only big issue you'll find is that the purple and blue colors for the bots can look too similar, causing those players to get confused if they lose track of their character for a second. The music is also fine but not memorable, while the effects do a decent job of filling out the sound space and making up for the lack of voice acting.

As long as you can accept its learning curve, Battery Jam is a fine multiplayer game. There are plenty of things that can be done, and it takes a while to get everything down before you can start playing and enjoying yourself. Once you understand the game, you'll find that there's some depth to the chaos, and even though there's no real meat to the game beyond local multiplayer, you'll enjoy the short bursts of fun it provides as a buffer between other multiplayer titles in your possession.

Score: 7.0/10

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