Based on: Toad-punchin', and gussying up a struggle to work within harsh technical limitations as some sort of beneficent clemency.
The Game Boy's Battletoads is the only game in the series that I've actually finished. That doesn't mean it's easy; it's mind-bendingly frustrating, throwing down some memorably cheap obstacles along the way. I simply had a lot of time on those long trips to Grandma's house.
Hopes of an easy victory die a spectacular death as early as the second stage, which is not so different from the NES game's Turbo Tunnel. As in the original, the toads are forced to contend with an auto-scrolling stage, with force barriers here replacing deadly stone pillars. The only way through these deadly lines of energy is to slide through the gaps, which are doubly fun to avoid as they rush by at high speed on a blurry LCD screen. Later stages follow up with a chase requiring precise memorization to clear, a series of narrow platforms that sport spinning axes, and a timed trip up an elevator shaft. In the series' grand tradition, death is as pervasive as the chance that you'll fling your Game Boy through the window. Battletoads demonstrates, if anything, that there are downsides to portability.
And yet, for all of that, it's still easy for Battletoads to beguile with its charms. That's because it looks and sounds good. A lot of that can be ascribed to its sprites, which are larger and considerably more detailed its NES sibling. Ordinarily, that would result in stages feeling smaller and more difficult to navigate, but Battletoads avoids that problem somewhat by omitting ceilings from its stages. On the Game Boy’s tiny screen, not feeling cramped is an accomplishment.
Unfortunately, despite being somewhat more attractive, this portable iteration is not quite as memorable as the NES original. While there are a wide range of stages, most of them are quite short, and none stand out. Memory shortages may have played a role, but there’s also the fact that many of the levels are merely remixes. In a game that thrived as much on its wild original levels as its insane difficulty, the relatively limited array of completely new ideas is discouraging. It’s quite a bit better than the likes of Battlemaniacs, but the lack of new ideas in only the second game suggests that the series was already on its way downhill. No wonder most people can only remember the original.
But even if it's not well-remembered, Battletoads still manages to impress for being a relatively fun, attractive little Game Boy game. Definitely no small feat when you consider that most NES spinoffs could barely meet the minimum for being atrocious, let alone competent. If it weren’t so stupidly frustrating, and had more original ideas, it might have even surpassed the original. It may be a harbinger of a franchise’s demise, but it's a fun one.