Blade Ballet Review

August 12, 2016 Written by

Ballets are...

...highly technical, artistic expression of the human soul; they are the result of countless hours in dedication, hopefully leading to a performance worthy of Western culture and civilization.

In contrast, Battlebots are...

a dark, gritty, and brutal, all-out offensives between heavily-armored, remotely-controlled, robots designed to kill everything in their paths.

Blade Ballet? Somewhere in the middle. 

Combine the graceful twirling of a ballet with sharp blades and a maniacal cast of characters engaging in violent confrontations, and this is what you get. Admittedly, I don’t play a lot of multiplayer games, but like many others, I enjoy having a go-to title for when I wish to blow off steam with friends.  Split-screens may hail from the golden days of console gaming, with titles like Goldeneye and Super Smash Bros, or the N64 era when friends would duke it out and rise against physical distractions, trash-talking, and roughhousing that can only be had in local multiplayer, yet as of late, the trend seems to make a return with couch co-ops on Steam. 

On the surface, Blade Ballet is a solid looking, almost cell-shaded brawler with an attitude. 

Featuring 10 characters (with some blacked out options, indicating potential additions in the future), each enjoy their own personality and fighting style.  My personal favorites? Torque, a screw that can violently spin its sharp blades and shred its opponents, and Catbot, who is both cat and bot.  The nerd in me also appreciated STEVe, who resembles the original Apple Macintosh computer from the 80’s, adding to the already nostalgic feel Blade Ballet enjoys as an undertone.  

Combat involves spinning to block attacks, lining up offensive charges, and ramming into opponents while spinning blades in a raging spree. Nuff’ said? 

Surprisingly enough, a limited system allows for sophisticated combat strategies, and learning character strengths and weaknesses will help you decide whom you attack at melee range, and whom should be dealt with from a distance. Sadly, learning how each character operates isn’t all that complex, which results in long term lassitude after just a few hours of practice. 

Stages are very well designed, and offer a broad range in variety.  Each has its own set of challenges, like a floor that periodically falls out or a conveyor belt that carries exploding blocks through the middle of the screen.  

Level design also does an excellent job at equalizing the sometimes one-sided dominance led by a character’s special abilities.

For example, Trigger’s long range, bomb-throwing, ability is much better suited for levels where you can fall through cracks, while Torque’s razor sharp blades means certain death in closely confined levels.  

Blade Ballet’s combat is limited to three game modes: (1) Stock, (2) Time Bomb, and (3) Robomination. 

The first two follow the more traditional multiplayer brawler modes, in which you fight until you run out of lives, or you rack up as many kills as possible within a given time limit.  Robomination, however, requires players to spin their blades and knock a giant ball into the opposing goal, like in a violent game of Soccer, which offers a nice change of pace.  Particularly exciting is that the goals are giant graters, that will tear your bot to shreds if you get too close or miscalculate the strength in strike. 

Unfortunately, the lack of single player or AI bot options makes it difficult to recommend Blade Ballet to the lonely wolf.  This can be particularly frustrating, because you are forced to twirl around a staging area with only few players to be found.  Bear in mind that at the time of writing, I was playing a beta copy of the game, and the lack of online matches available should be auto-resolved when the game officially releases.   Also, it should be noted, that in order to play online, you MUST have four players unless you host a private match. 


The Verdict

Blade Ballet’s sleek-looking, fast-paced, competitive gameplay, makes it an excellent choice for playing with family and friends.  The combination of spinning robots with simple attacks and great level design, make Blade Ballet stand out from its competitors. It’s a great addition to the reemerging “Couch Co-op” genre, but the lack of AI bots for a single-player mode makes this a strictly multiplayer game. 

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Mark Klink

Mark is a self-proclaimed nerd who has an undying need to take anything and everything tech related apart at the seams and break it down to the basics. His interest in video games reaches all the way back to his early days of playing Road Rash on the Sega Genesis. Games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Unreal Tournament only fueled Mark’s desire to get his hands dirty in video game design by offering in-depth level editors and a budding modding community. But alas, Mark was never a very good programmer, so when he’s not playing video games, he delves into information security and network engineering including Capture the Flag Tournaments and writing on current cyber security issues.