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‘Badland’ for iOS game review

Badland is a 2D action adventure platformer where you control one of the game’s unnamed creatures through a maze of deadly traps.

The game has already won several accolades, along with Apple’s Editor’s Choice award on the App Store. We decided to find out for ourselves how good the game really is.

Title
Badland
Developer
Frogmind
Platform
iOS
Release Date
April 4, 2013
Content Reating
9+
Size
121MB
Price
$3.99

Gameplay

In Badland, you control these unknown, unnamed creatures that sort of look like the birds from Angry Birds. Unlike the Angry Birds, these creatures can fly, but not so well. You can tell from the way they fly that their wings are too small to carry their weight around. To control these creatures, you tap the screen which makes them fly and moving forward. The screen keeps moving forward regardless of whether you fly or not and if you’re caught napping, the creature eventually moves out of the screen and the game is over.

Between you and the end of the level lie some of the most sinister traps I’ve seen in a game and within a few seconds of playing you realize why the place is called Badland. Every thing in the game is designed to kill you in a gruesome manner. There are all sorts of traps, from collapsing boulders, spinning blades, mines, guns and several other things that are out to get you. The environment is also quite hostile and makes moving around without landing in any of these traps very difficult.

Throughout the level you get several powerups. These can increase or decrease your size, increase or decrease your speed, make you spin clockwise or anti-clockwise, slow or quicken time, turn you into a bouncing ball, etc. These powerups are sometimes optional but mostly you need to collect them to get through a certain section of the game, which would otherwise be impossible.

A special type of powerup makes clones out of your creature. You can go from controlling one of these creatures to dozens at once. You control them all similarly as you control one of them and they all react simultaneously to screen taps. Your job in the end is to save as many of these as you can. Often, this isn’t possible and the game makes sure of that. In some cases, you have to sacrifice a few for the sake of others. At times, it is difficult to direct one of these through a series of traps but with a dozen of them, you are bound to left with at least one by the time you come out of the traps.

The creatures you control in Badland are by far some of the dullest and most frustrating character I’ve come across in any game. Not that it’s a flaw but they are designed that way. As mentioned before, they can’t fly well, which can be a colossal pain in the butt sometimes. You have to be very careful with your inputs because they don’t respond very well. And because they have just a pair of wings, in case they get stuck somewhere you can’t do anything. And they get stuck a lot. Often you will find them getting stuck in a crevice somewhere and you are left to watch helplessly as the creature eventually moves out of the screen and the game restarts. They are also easily influenced by the environment and if they hit or touch something it can instantly change their trajectory and you have to fight hard to bring them back in line.

More than the traps themselves, it’s these creatures that add the challenge in Badlands. Had you been provided with a sharper character, you could blaze through the game in no time at all. But to get through the traps with a character as daft as these creatures is what makes Badland so exciting and at times a bit frustrating.

The game has 40 levels in the single-player mode, which might not sound like much but are enough when you consider how challenging they are. Once you complete a level, you can play them again and the game gives you a good incentive to do so. Each level has three achievements that are revealed when you complete the level once. The achievements are of varying difficulty with the easiest one often involving just managing to get through the level in one attempt (you’d be surprised how hard it is to do even this). The more difficult achievements usually involve collecting every powerup in a level or finishing a level with a certain number of clones.

What this does is add an excellent amount of replay value to the game. Completing the level is challenging as it is but trying to get any or all of these ups the ante significantly. Those who revel in such masochism are bound to love Badland.

Once you are done with single-player there is also a multi-player mode in the game. Unfortunately, this is just a local multi-player mode, and not a great one at that. You can have up to four player playing at once. Each can select their character and let’s say if you select four player mode the screen is then split in four parts, with each part assigned to a player. That player then has to tap in that section to keep their character moving. Then it’s like a standard game of Badland. You go through the level, collecting powerups as usual. The one who makes it till the end with most powerups and clones wins.

If this doesn’t sound terribly exciting, mostly because it isn’t. The multi-player mode would have been a lot more fun if it was played online on separate devices. Unfortunately, that is not an option.

Graphics and Sound

Badland is a visually stunning game. The developers have done an excellent job of portraying the landscape. The game environment comes across as beautiful due to the use of vibrant hues for the background but at the same time unsettlingly creepy due to the sort of things that go on there. The creatures in the game are also well drawn and animated. You can feel their struggle as they drag around their disproportionately large body with their tiny wings and some of your frustration and helplessness is mirrored in them when they get stuck somewhere and can’t do anything about it because their body isn’t capable of doing anything else. You can see their expression change through their eyes, which widen every time a trap is set off or if they approach the edge of the display and are about to be left out. The traps are also very well designed and remind me a lot of the desktop/console game ‘Limbo’, which featured similarly sinister traps throughout. You also get to witness some excellent physics in the game.

The sound is terrific as well. You have ambient sounds from the environment to keep you company throughout the game. You can hear birds chirping in the background and flies buzzing as you go about your business. Occasionally you also hear some eery sounds from machines that you don’t really see in the game. The developers have ensured that the traps sound just as ferocious as they look. Play with a set of high-quality headphones and you can feel the thump of every piston, the rumble of a boulder, the squelch of your creature being crushed to death and the razor sharp blades tearing their bodies apart. Badland begs to be heard through a pair of good headphones and you’d be doing it and yourself a great disservice by playing it on the loudspeaker.

Verdict

After playing through the game there is little reason to wonder why Badland won so many accolades. It combines a deliciously challenging gameplay, gorgeous visuals and some amazing sound effects into a wonderfully complete package. The developers have also refrained from adding any kind of in-app purchase and ruin the experience, for which they must be commended. I only wish the game had a proper online multi-player mode but other than that Badland is as close to perfect as you can get.

Rating: 9/10
Pros: Challenging gameplay that will test your patience, excellent audio visual presentation, plenty of replay value
Cons: No online multi-player mode

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