Reviewed on Xbox One
Becoming renowned for their beat ‘em up, Castle Crashers and continuing their success with their platformer, Battleblock Theatre, The Behemoth somehow reinvent themselves with each game they develop. Pit People is their biggest leap of genre, throwing away the side-scroller action for a turn-based strategy RPG. It’s a chaotic game filled with absurdist humour, dumb puns, and giant space bears with stars for nipples. Yet the thing I wasn’t expecting was the amount of depth and intelligence they’ve imbued into Pit People’s gameplay.
Battles typically focus on two teams on a hexagonal grid, with different obstacles or objectives depending on the environment and mission. It’s up to the player to decides where to position of their party members, and how to prioritise targets. Once you get the hang of combat, standard encounters can feel quite slow and repetitive, but during harder missions I was gripping my controller, praying for the enemy to leave an opening or mourning the death of a party member, often due to my own mistake.
There’s a variety of classes and creatures to fill your team, with humans being most versatile and capable equipping a variety of weapons and armour. Other species have limited equipment, suiting more specialised or supportive roles. These include anthropomorphic cupcakes who heal units with bites of their delicious flesh, or spidaurs (spider centaurs), who can block off paths or snag enemies with their webs.
The colossal amount of equipment available to collect, is used to enhance the strengths of units or cover their vulnerabilities. Ergo, wearing the strongest armour protects you against most weapons but leaves them more vulnerable to mallets and reduces their movement. It’s a tough balancing act, with the most successful teams requiring a mix of units and equipment that play well off of each other.
The major flaw with unit progression is character levelling. Units are meant to grow stronger as they gain experience but it’s only marginal, even comparing a level 10 to a level 40. Perhaps this is to stop a single unit from becoming god-like, but there’s little incentive to stick with any particular character, other than to gain an achievement.
The main questline follows Horatio, Princess Pipistrella and their gang of misfits, attempting to save Horatio’s son from a giant space bear called Honey Kiss. There are equally ridiculous characters along the way, such as ‘Jerkimedes,’ a villain with ‘jerkiness on a cosmic scale.’ The campaign is short, perhaps only a few hours not counting side quests, but it delivers Pit People’s gloriously absurd art style and goofy music. There’s really no game that looks or sounds like it (aside from other Behemoth games).
Many mission goals are a simple ‘kill these enemies’, but some require destroying particular objectives, protecting VIPs, or a mix. There’s also a rather surprising stealth mission where you need to avoid combat altogether. A lot of the side quests are on-par or harder than anything you encounter in the main questline, with many having their own hilarious plotlines. My favourite was saving Tinkletown from different groups of would-be shit stirrers.
Pit People supports also co-op for almost every activity, including the main campaign, as well as the competitive multiplayer for two to four players. I found that previous Behemoth games didn’t have very substantial multiplayer modes, due to the nature of their gameplay, but Pit People lends itself well to PVP deathmatch within the titular ‘Pit,’ the dedicated multiplayer mode.
The Pit also offers a substantial PVE challenge. Solo, I was only able to reach round three out of five before my party was obliterated, so it’s probably something you’re better off attempting with a friend. And for the masochists, there are also options like ‘Insane Mode’ and permadeath. Though, I didn’t go anywhere near those options because I value my sanity.
The major thing that always drew me to the Behemoth’s games, ever since Alien Hominid on Newgrounds, was its unique humour, which is woven throughout every aspect of their games, from the designs, music, and even premise. The character and environment designs in Pit People are standouts, however I felt that the jokes throughout the campaign wore a little thin. Jerkimedes in particular sticks around too long. Not that it’s unfunny, it’s just not as consistently hilarious, and I found myself grinning more than laughing.
Though Pit People isn’t Behemoth’s funniest, or even ‘funnest’ game, it’s their smartest and most complex in terms of raw gameplay. And despite the genre difference to their previous titles, it’s solid fun and retains all the wackiness that made me fall in love with them in the beginning.