- Developer: Frogmind
- Publisher: QubicGames
- Release Date: 06/08/2021
- Price: £5.39 / $5.99
- Review code provided by QubicGames
Introducing: Badland GOTY Edition Review
Badland GOTY is about as barebones as a game can be, in this day and age, and still get away with it. The concept is an incredibly simple one and the controls are so simplistic that a child could master them with relative ease. There is no story, no soundtrack and no dialog of any sort. The characters you play as, and nearly everything they interact with is presented in just one colour: black. As if all that wasn’t bad enough, you’ll have completed the majority of it within a few hours depending on your skill level. Given all these missing elements, it would be logical to assume that this game would not be worth a second look, and yet, somehow, I came away feeling pleasantly entertained by this minimalist masterpiece. If you’re feeling particularly stressed out and just want to kick back and play something that will send you into a zen-like state, then give this very reasonably priced game a moment of your time.
Send in the clones
There’s no real story to Badland. Nothing definitive anyway. The goal is as straightforward as it comes. Get at least one of the bizarre, flying black clones to the end of each stage, without succumbing to death. This may prove more difficult than it seems however as death may come in a plethora of different ways. Sure there’s the traditional, spikes or saws that you can impale yourself on. More often than not however, you’ll be killed simply by becoming trapped and falling off the left hand edge of the screen as it scrolls mercilessly by. The one real advantage you do have is that clones (true to their name) can occasionally duplicate themselves. This makes it more likely for at least one to make it to the end of the level but a little trickier to navigate the obstacles, given that all the clones will respond to your commands at exactly the same time. The game takes place over a total of 100 levels that play out over two days of 40 stages each and two bonus stages of 10 levels each. Each “day” is divided into four time periods (dawn, noon, dusk and night) which are each 10 levels a piece. The time of day however, has no real impact upon the stage at all, beyond changing the colour scheme of the background, but it’s a nice touch all the same.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a weird looking bee
Badland is the quintessential one button game, which is no surprise given it’s smart phone heritage. Holding Y will command your clones to rise upwards as they hurtle towards the right. Letting go of Y will cause the clones to slowly drift downwards. To navigate your clones through the levels requires you to finetune what I like to call the mark-space ratio. That is the ratio of time you hold the button down to when you’re not holding it at all. I must say that it is both funny and tragic in equal parts when the clone gets stuck in a gap it can’t fit through, beating his little wings for all he is worth. It never gets old.
I’ve got the power
Curiously I found the early levels of this game to be weirdly relaxing. It’s easy to slip into a zen-like state as you guide the little clones up and down their treacherous route. Once the difficulty increases however, the game can get a little frustrating, particularly when you keep making the same old mistakes over and over. Thankfully the reload time and the reload distance (which is a phrase that I will be coining right now) are mercifully short. This isn’t always the case however. Occasionally you’ll encounter a stage that will force to complete a large section all in one go but, I’m happy to say, this doesn’t happen very often.
The one gameplay element that I haven’t mentioned yet are the power-ups, which your clones can collect as they speed by. Power-ups can make your clones: speed up, become bouncy, roll clockwise, get bigger and speed up time. Every power-up has its antonym counterpart, so you can make you clones: slow down, become sticky, roll anticlockwise, get smaller and slow down time as well. Collecting the power-ups is a necessity most of the time. Miss the power-up to get smaller and you’re too big to fit through a gap. Miss the power-up to get big and you won’t be heavy enough to crash through a beam. I was very impressed with the way in which the power-ups added a great deal of variety to what is essentially another endless runner game.
There is no significant reward for getting multiple clones to the end of the level or for how quickly it is completed, which I felt was a missed opportunity. Some kind of hi-score system, that took these two factors into account, would have been a good idea for expert level players to show off their skill.
Getting carried away by a moonlight shadow
I’m a big fan of the aesthetics in Badland. Everything in the foreground is presented in silhouette, while the predominant colour of the background shifts from yellow to green to orange and finally purple to represent the progression of a day. It put me in mind of one of my favourite levels from Donkey Kong Country Returns (Sunset Shore). However, unlike DKCR, there are never any interactions between the strange, otherworldly objects looming in the background and the action happening in the foreground. It feels like Frogmind have missed a trick on that one as this would have added some much needed variety to the standard “dodge the spinning blades” routine.
As far as the soundtrack goes, well there is no soundtrack. The only sound you will hear as you progress through each level is ambient noise: birds chirping, machinery whirring and so on. To be honest I rather liked the absence of a soundtrack, in this instance, as it made me feel more grounded within the world as I deftly swooped and dodged my way through it.
Conclusion: Short-haul flight
Overall I enjoyed my time with this game. It won’t take you very long to complete, and you may choose to retire happily without feeling the need to do so, but it is a fun little distraction at a very modest price point. Be warned that the gameplay is as one dimensional as it comes but don’t let that stop you enjoying the short, relaxing experience that is Badland.
- Easy to pick up and rewarding to master
- Gorgeous aesthetic
- Power ups add plenty of variety
- The whole game is refreshingly minimalist
- Background never interacts with foreground
- Some obstacles will leave you feeling frustrated
- No hi-score system to reward the dexterity of skilled players