Unlike Monument Valley, BADLAND didn’t make many headlines across the wider gaming world. Nor did it appear along Kevin Spacey in House of Cards. Badlands by was no means unpopular, but its safe to say that there were plenty of players on the latest generation of consoles who had never heard of the game before it appeared along the rest of the newly released titles.
No, it might not be as popular Monument Valley, but BADLAND will not be found short against that titan. That’s because, like its minimalist architecture, BADLAND: Game of the Year Edition shows off the unparalleled imagination capable from the so-called casual market. Tough you might not expect much going in. It’s got a simple premise, which draws on plenty of inspiration from other games. Its art style has hints at Limbo, with the blackened silhouettes and haunting, soulless eyes. The background is pleasantly colourful however, with bright vivid alien landscapes and creepy otherworldly machinery. Its beautifully contrasting, which helps separate Badlands from its inspiration.
Its mechanics, on the other hand feel like an addictive blend of Temple Run and Flappy Bird. Moving across the screen, you have to press literally any button to flap your wings, or hold it down to continuous fly. If the edge of the screen catches up with you, you die, if you touch the spikey stuff, you die. If you’re old enough, it might even swell a nostalgic memory of the original Rayman levels that chased you across the map. It feels both retro and fresh, although the screen can move unpredictably sometimes, catching you completely off guard after a single minor error, and other times grinding to a crawling halt. In theory the screen matches the speed of the protagonist (a strange fly-like creature), and its clones, but a sudden change of your speed will take a few seconds to register with the screen.
Luckily the loading times and checkpoints in BADLAND: Game of the Year Edition are extremely forgiving, which is even more vital considering the overall difficulty of the venture. There are a lot of different aspects to puzzle and challenge you, and the second ‘day’ introduces even more trickery to throw you off. While the earlier levels are filled with what you might expect, spikes, falling boulders and other such traps, you’ll soon be coming face to face with gravity wells, physics puzzles and weird floating triangles. Death comes easily to the fly, who will immediately pop when encountering any number of traps, but there is one simple way of slowing your inevitable demise; clones.
There are a bunch of power ups lying around each level, and while some are unavoidable and designed to change the way the level operates, others are often useful bonuses to help you push through an awkward section of the game. Some are recognisable for the genre, such as speed-ups/slow-downs, bouncing and size changes. Others, like the before mentioned clones, are slightly more unique to the series. It’s always hilarious to go from a lone fly of varying size to an impressive swarm. But the controls go across every single fly, as they’ll all flap in unison. This makes keeping them all alive impossible, but you only need one to finish. Its a sort of clever way to introduce extra lives too, although it can only make matter worse. The clones can bounce off one another, and easily get every single one of them killed. That, and added counter that tallies just how many clones you’ve saved makes levels even more exciting.
With well over 80 levels, that each take anywhere between one and twenty minutes to finish, you’ll be spending more time then you might care to admit gliding from one screen to another. And BADLAND: Game of the Year Edition have tapped into that incredibly satisfying, moreish feeling normally only reserved for high-end boxes of chocolate. Each level starts into the next, and you’ll only turn it off once you know you’re running late.
On top of all that Badlands brings to the table in terms of single player, you’ll also find a host of co-op and multiplayer options. It’s a nice local edition that be used when your housemates investigate that screaming you keep doing are the frantic high-speed levels.
And BADLAND: Game of the Year Edition does a good job changing the pace of the game through each level. Using some unavoidable powerups at the beginning of the level can change the flow from a steady pace, to a high-speed pursuit to a slow motion test of nerves. This creates a palpable sense of tension as you venture to the new level, or deeper into spinning cogs of whatever level you’re entering the bowls of.
Maybe its this that makes BADLAND: Game of the Year Edition so addictive. From what feels like an easily identifiable, simple premise, hides a lot of depth. You’ll find the fluidity of the gameplay offers a lot of different styles available in the game, and all equally enjoyable. Despite its petite status, Badlands is sure to win the hearts and minds of the those willing to pick it up. With its brilliantly ingrained mechanics and complete ease of use, every player from the ‘causal’ to the ‘hardcore’ will find this a cute, creepy little treasure.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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