I always find it fascinating when developers take an incredibly simple concept and blow it up to fill an entire game. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but no matter what, it is interesting to see the ways in which they try and expound upon a concept to keep it fresh, or use visual or audio tricks to make it more compelling. Badland: Game Of The Year Edition is one of those games, and fortunately, it works: and it works very, very well.
The gameplay is unbelievably simple. By holding A, your flying blob of a character will go higher; by letting go, he’ll fall to the ground. You can control his movement with the left stick. That’s the extent of it – but what all is done with this is both impressive and enjoyable. See, there are several additional abilities your flying blob can gain by grabbing powerups. You’ll shrink and enlarge yourself to fit through gaps and impact the environment correctly, you’ll roll on ceilings, you’ll get all spiky to change how you interact with objects and walls. With the screen always scrolling slowly behind you, cutting off paths of escape, there are other powerups that speed up the pace or slow it down. The list goes on.
But the main feature is the clones – some powerups split you up into two or more clones. Though this, you can split up, sending some on the upper path to get a shrinking power-up which the clones on the bottom path can use to get through a small gap, as an example. Really, the extent of the different obstacles, puzzles, and the like offer a surprising amount of variety to what is seriously simple gameplay and controls. Some levels in the game can be pretty hard, too, but if you ever screw up, the checkpoint is never far behind. That means the game is never frustrating even when there’s a challenging segment or a spot where you don’t know how to advance.
The visuals are what really make the game come together: they are absolutely incredible. The foreground is always a silhouette, while the background is a stunning environment set in a mysterious jungle, with an art style that just works. It makes for a gorgeous atmosphere that compliments the game absolutely perfectly, as it is both charming and slightly humorous, yet also ambient, somber, and beautiful. The lack of music was quite disappointing, though. I felt Badland could have been a lot better simply by adding a few tracks to the experience; the silent ambiance works, but it could have been so much more.
BADLAND: Game Of The Year Edition happens to have an extremely impressive amount of content. There are 160 levels, several of which are quite challenging, and all of those levels have extra missions you can complete, and more clones you can try and make it out alive with. There are even online leaderboards to judge how you did compared to others around the world. The Wii U exclusive features aren’t super out there – really, the Gamepad just shows what’s on the TV, so off-TV Play, some touch controls, and Miiverse is about it. It doesn’t need more than that, though, and it all works splendidly.
Beyond all that, there are some local multiplayer modes, with up to four players able to play. You can play through the 160 levels in co-op, or you can play specially made competitive levels where you and friends run through a level or series of levels to see who can get the farthest without dying. These are awesome options to have, and they add a lot of value to the experience.
The game’s not all perfect, though. Again, the lack of much music really hurts the title, I felt. I also never wanted to play the game for extended periods of time, preferring it in short bursts. This comes down to the simplicity of the game: there are no deeper mechanics to really sink into. And that’s absolutely fine – that is the game Badland is trying to be. But it also means the game probably won’t grab you for hours and hours on end.
The game also froze on me. At times while playing, the game would suddenly stop, and I would need to restart my Wii U. But it only happened a few times, and I never had to unplug my console or anything. And again, checkpoints are frequent, so it never lost progress. Still – freezes or crashes are never good things.
BADLAND: Game of the Year edition is a great game. It’s got a simple concept that the developers do tons of clever things with. It’s got lots of content and variety, multiplayer modes and leaderboards, and a beautiful art style and solid challenge without any frustration. There is no real music, the game freezes on occasion, and it probably won’t be super addicting, but Badland is still a game you should absolutely check out, because it really is a blast.