When a small black ball with eyes is suddenly and violently birthed into a barren desolate landscape, you can imagine its surprise. Where did it come from? Where is it going? And why are there so many other little black balls that look just like him?
If answers you seek, Badland for you may be not. But all clarity aside, your little black ball simply doesn’t have the time to stop and ponder life’s confusing questions. As the world scrolls inevitably forward, so must the ball keep… Bounce-flying… into things. While trying really hard not to die. Badland is a visually impressive, contextually devoid action/puzzle game that fits in neatly with bizarre titles like World of Goo and Hero of Many.
An Awkward Ride
You start knowing nothing and are immediately thrust into action in a dangerous and dark world. Your single goal is to make it from the beginning of a level to the end, horizontally speaking, by flapping your wings and rebounding off of decaying metal structures. Along the way to “the end”–the giant vacuum hose of comfort–you’ll encounter more black flappy balls like yourself (lovingly dubbed “clones”) who joyfully fall into sync like one army of mobile ink blots.
“That sounds easy!” you exclaim, giddy with anticipation. It’s not. It’s really not not. You see, while your clone flutters up and down attempting to awkwardly navigate a series of obstacles as the world races to pull you off screen, you not only have to keep track of what lies ahead… but you will be managing a live action puzzle at the same time. Obstacles in Badland are hardly the inert harmless roadblocks you might be imagining. Instead, they will explode, collapse, and otherwise squeeze your clone into a useless puddle if not properly managed. Lucky for you, there’s a power up for every occasion.
Mighty Morphing Ball
Some power ups make you grow, while others make you shrink. Some make you fast, leaving you no time to think. Some make you heavy, forcing you to stick to the ground. And some make you light, the possibilities will astound! Okay, that’s enough of Dr. Seuss for one review. You get the idea. As you struggle to stay ahead of the “nothing” behind you (falling off-screen results in death), you’ll need to think fast and pick up power ups. These power ups, in turn, are crucial to navigating the traps on the way to the giant hose in the sky. In addition to power ups, you’ll pick up more clones. The more clones you finish with, the better your final score… O! but wait, there’s more. Many traps require you to split your army of clones in order to move objects, resulting in certain death for one group while the other survives. Such sacrifices are commonplace in the Land of Bad. Getting stuck and dying happens a lot, so steel yourself for a bumpy ride.
Badlands sports well over 120 levels in all, but ads will begin to interrupt your gameplay after the first 10 or so. And, we’re not talking run-of-the-mill, unobtrusive tiny banner ad ads… oh no. We’re talking, stop your game and watch a 15 second video ads. For a mere $1.99 you can do away with these pesky constructs of capitalism and enjoy the game unhindered, adding another 40 levels and 120 missions. Or for $2.99, you can also add a multiplayer variant (I’m not sure what this does or how it works) plus 3 new characters. Everyone wants your money. How’s it feel to be popular?
Each mission in Badland is a relatively brief and frustrating affair, taking only a couple minutes to complete once you’ve created a mental plan of escape. It’s getting to that plan that requires a whole lot of patience and trial-and-error. Personally, I had the patience to get to the “ad zone” and then I’d just about had enough. Is it a good game? Sure. It’s certainly pretty and artsy and challenging as all get-out, but can become pretty repetitive in short time.
Badland is a relatively simple game at heart that challenges you to complete level upon level of increasingly complex traps. It’s also real time, so don’t go into this thinking you can sit around and plan your escape. Plan for plenty of repetition and incremental progress. If you like these types of games, Badland is well worth at least the $1.99 for all the levels ad-free.
+ Gorgeous visuals
+ Tons of levels
– Repetitive & frustrating
– Obnoxious ad model