There's a lot of subtlety behind the chaos: the throw move, for example, is stronger if you're facing away from the throwee, and you can also set it up by holding the button, making your little man strike a delightful pose in readiness and toss on contact. Nice enough for setting up a precise arc - even better when someone's trying to attack you and gets flung.
Each stage has enemies, some of which have to just be avoided and some of which can be fought head-on and whacked around, though obviously they'll try to do the same. In one instance, a racoon-looking thing uppercutted our character to a height that jumping could never have reached, so clearly there's a tactical layer there as well.
And then there are the toys, which are wonderful. You pick one before entering a level, and more are unlocked with cash (in-game, this is presented as bribing the cat prison guards). There was a dart weapon that stunned enemies and could be jammed into walls, creating a temporary platform. A fan blew enemies away - and sent our good friend tumbling to his doom more than once. There's a boomerang, bouncing bombs, and the default weapon is a frisbee that, after being thrown, ticks down to an explosion. Throw this at your mate and it downs him; he gets up, and boots it straight back at your face. No competitive interaction seems overlooked.
The 'Battleblock' part of the name comes from the various types of blocks that make up the large levels: lava blocks that bounce your characters upwards, downwards or sideways depending on contact (think 3D Mario hitting fire), smoke blocks that can be passed through, laser-shooting blocks, collapsing blocks, exploding blocks, ice blocks, grabbable blocks. Some setups send you whizzing around like a pinball; others are simple block puzzles. There are lots of blocks, and each level's also dotted with temporary powerups like angel wings and rocketpacks that work exactly as expected, with a simple zoom effect keeping both players on-screen.
Nevertheless, there's something missing. Getting down to brass tacks, because we've all played it, how good was Castle Crashers? If you ask Dan Whitehead, who wrote Eurogamer's Castle Crashers review, it's an 8/10 peach. If you ask me, it's a decent enough beat-'em-up that got a little overrated because it looks incredible.
There's something of that about Battleblock Theatre: killing your mate doesn't seem to get old, it looks great, and all of its elements seem like they should be great fun. But as a whole, it feels good without ever being fantastic. Perhaps it's the slight stickiness of the controls, which felt a little too slow to respond. Or maybe that delicate balance between helping each other out and killing each other isn't quite right: there's a time and a place for comedy knockabouts, but a few times I was genuinely trying to work with my buddy (honest) and ended up skewering him on a wall instead. It may even be the fact that, for all the pizzazz on show here, blocks, pressure plates and jumping puzzles are pretty familiar ingredients.
That's not to say Battleblock Theatre is going to be a bad game: it's clearly going to be a very good one indeed, the source of plenty of laughs in multiplayer, with a bite that something like New Super Mario Bros. Wii never approached. And there are still plenty of modes apart from the main adventure to be shown. I feel dirty even saying this, but: imagine, if you will, everything that's going into Battleblock Theatre and how good it will be. Know that the reality is close, but it's probably not going to be quite as amazing as you think.