I’m sure I posted about this before, but the iTunes store celebrated its 5th anniversary a few weeks ago and to celebrate they made a whole bunch of “essential” apps available for FREE, including a bunch of great games like Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, Tiny Wings and the game I wanted to review today, BADLAND. I’d never heard of BADLAND before, but it had an intruging aesthetic, seemed to have won a bunch of awards, and heck, it was free. What did I have to lose?
As it turns out I really did have nothing to lose and everything to gain because I love this game. It’s challenging, but easy to pickup. The look and feel are both amazing. And it’s really fun to play. In fact, I’ve nearly missed my stop on the metro more times than I can count because of this game. There also seems to be 80 bazillion levels, so I have a feeling I’ll playing this one for a while.
BADLAND is described as an “action-platformer,” but I feel the gameplay is more similar to an endless runner type of game, except that, of course, it’s not endless. Each level sees your weird little porcupine thing with arm-wings spat out in a strange environment will all sorts of menacing obstacles outlined in shadows. In fact, likely the first thing you will notice about the game is the fact that the design aesthetic is very reminiscent of LIMBO (also recently ported to the iPad). However, instead of LIMBO’s eerie grey haze, BADLAND instead has beautiful, almost watercolour-like backgrounds with colour-palettes matched to the time of day in the game.
The goal of each level is pretty standard: avoid getting squished, stomped, crushed, or blown-up long enough to make it to the next vacuum tube. You move by tapping the screen to float up, timing your bobs and dips to avoid obstacles of pickup power-ups, which is sort of action-platformer-y. However, there aren’t any actual “platforms” per se and the side scrolling can also kill you, much like in an endless runner. There are save points at different locations in each level, which is important, because you will die. A lot.
The bobbing/floating controls can be tricky and rising just half an instant too early or too late can have dire consequences, especially if you have crap hand-eye coordination like myself. But the save points are generally generous and the puzzles are so intriguing that deaths never really feel “cheap.” The other aspect of the game that I really like is how the different power-ups are incorporated into the puzzles. Sometimes it can be more beneficial not to pick up a certain power-up; sometimes you need just the right number of power-ups to make it. You never really know, so trial and error is both rewarding and expected.
There are also missions available for most levels, giving BADLANDS even more replayability. Overall, I highly recommend this game.