There are plenty of games that started out on mobile and made the transition to the living room with mixed results. Popular franchises like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja may sell on consoles but I always felt that no matter how well developers adapt their games they lack the spark that makes them fun to play. Badland Game of the Year Edition is making the jump to home consoles and my experience with the game on the PS4 was nothing short of excellent.
I had no knowledge of Badland, in part because I never download any games to my phone. Heading into the review I was thinking how this mobile game would get pass the hurdle of changing it’s controls to accommodate the PS4 DualShock. What I learned is this game’s strength does not rely on it’s interaction with the touch screen but rather the interactions with the world around you. Angry Birds is not great because it has touch controls, it is popular because of the puzzles that each level has. Likewise Badland does not rely on gimmicky controls or collect-a-thon tactics, It’s strengths lie on the ingenious level design and game changing power-ups.
To begin you play as a little blob like creature that has wings. When you press the ‘X’ button or gamepad your creature flaps it’s wings and controls similar to Tiny Wings’ birdie. You can hold the button and the creature flies higher, let go and it plummets sharply. Throw in the fact that the little guy does not seem to know how to fly perfectly, and it becomes a nice mix of learning how to control and mastering how to traverse. The levels scroll from the left to right, but you also must keep pace with the screen ala Super Mario World. The art direction has your creature and the foreground pitch black, while the world in the background is illuminated with bright visuals and stunning environments. The contrast of black that you're actually playing in, to that of the colorful backdrop is a bold and fresh take on level design.
What really makes Badland a game worth going back to is how each level poses different challenges that you must overcome. The first few levels are a breeze while as you grow comfortable with controlling your creature, learning how to pick-up and slow-down the pace. You maneuver around tree limbs, boulders, gears and spikes all in an effort to be sucked up by a black hole at the end of the level. Then there is the addition that you can clone your creature. At any time you could be controlling one or dozens of little blacked-wing creatures. The cool thing is you do not have to worry about them being crushed, smashed and sliced to bits because you only need one alive to continue the level. Seeing the little creatures meet their demise is sad but ultimately some will be sacrificed in order to get pass a puzzle. There is no grand story or overarching themes to be worried with. All you need to do is solve, survive and save as many clones as possible in each level.
The developers have fun with giving you a wide variety of levels. Some will require you to dodge at break neck speed while others you will need to take your time to think about what can get you pass a particular section. I mentioned that the game has power-ups but what I should have said is it gives your creature different attributes. Sometimes good, sometimes bad these ‘ability blobs’ as I would like to call them change the way you play the game in profound ways. A purple-pink blob will make your creature spin like a wheel; making it easier to traverse walls and floors but difficult to control. Another green blob will make your creature stick to walls; making it very difficult to get through tight spaces. Any ability blob can spring up at a moments notice so they do a great job at changing how you play but they also do not over extend their welcome.
While there are well over a 100 different levels in the main story and extra levels, Badland Game of the Year Edition also includes multiplayer and co-op play. The ability to play with a buddy was hilarious. As difficult as it is to think about what each level is on your own, with a friend it lead to shouting and great couch play. Likewise, the multiplayer is a killer feature. One to four players can choose their creature and are pitted against each other in a multiplayer-level. The goal is to get as far as you can and save as many clones as possible through however many levels you choose from. A nice touch is being able to create a custom round of levels that you want. The greatest thing about multiplayer is you can see how everyone is progressing on the screen, while you are playing. As fun as the game is by yourself, playing with others is just as rewarding. You cannot help but laugh when you see your friend get squished by the first obstacle, only to be impaled by a spike a few moments later.
I cannot say enough about how great Badland Game of the Year Edition is. More than a great game on mobile, Badland proves itself as being a great game on any device. The clever puzzle design and various levels will take several hours to play through and countless more to master and complete objectives. Some games thrive on being overtly difficult, but Badland finds a nice balance at testing your wit while never making you frustrated. The instant respawn is yet another feature that shows that the developers knew what they were doing in creating this game. You will die plenty of times but you always feel like you are learning the levels, mastering the ability blobs and inching ever closer to your goal. What really brings this game full circle is the co-op and multiplayer. Both of these modes add yet another layer of replayability to what is already a very deep game. This game plays with your mind, it makes you wonder and it makes you laugh. For the price of admission you get a pass to all PlayStation consoles, but whatever you have please do yourself a favor and have some fun with Badland Game of the Year Edition.