When making a cake one slip with the wrong mixture of ingredients can spell disaster, but it can equally create something new.
That's the same feeling the developers must have been getting when creating Badland. It's a mix of ideas from different genres and it's not clear until a fair few levels in just how it will turn out.
The game is a level by level style runner with the basic idea being to get from one side of the level to the other intact. You play a rather cute little animal which looks a little like a hybrid of monkey, hedgehog and bird. We'll call it a Hedmond just for the sake of arguement. There's no story, only a description on the App Store which tells you that something is wrong in your forest and it's up to you to find out what it is by making the perilous journey to the other side.
The standout feature of Badlands is most certainly the art style. There's a beatifully drawn background with a ton of little touches, such as creatures half hidden in shadows watching your progress. This is overlayed by the shadowy shapes of the foreground, the obstacles and scenery that you need to navigate, and hedmond himself.
No explanation is given to your objective or even the controls as the game immediately places you at the start of your journey and waits for your first touch of the screen. It's soon clear that minimal controls are required to guide your furry friend, though, as a simple touch of the screen will lift him up and letting go drops him down. That's it, there's nothing else to it.
Would that the game was this easy, though. Even on the first few stages you may fall foul to the evil that is the whirring blades, sticky plants and various other contraptions set out to stop you in your path as the screenn scrolls ever on. If you're left at the side of the screen as it scrolls past then it's game over. Luckily. levels begin with straightforward avoidance to gently ease you in to the mechanics of the game before throwing in the first really fiendish object. This does create moments where you feel out of control, the fans, wind and scenery bouncing you around, but it's offset by the need to be constantly aware of your surroundings and when the next deadly obstacle will appear
This is where the puzzle element comes in. As the objects build in each new level you'll need to plan ahead and work out just what to do to continue. Do you need to lift that twig? How do you move past the falling boulder in time and just how do you stop the exploding mines from throwing you backwards at high speed? Later levels may need to be played many times before finding the right path and working out how the physics can work with you rather than against you.
There are also times when you'll come across a bunch of clones, creatures just like you that are rescued simply by brushing past them. They'll follow your lead and react at the same time as the original Hedmond, but because they are in a different position it often results in them becoming cannon fodder to allow you to continue. There is an incentive in bringing these clones to the end of the level with you, it's the only sign of a scoring system for each of the 40 levels.
The game is split into Days, with only Day 1 being available from the start, though this contains a pretty hefty 40 levels split into 4 sections. More levels are promised soon, though, for those eager to continue little Hedmond's journey, and there's no IAP in sight, which is refreshing.
Add in a four-player mode where each player takes a corner of the screen for tapping and the player who survives the longest wins, plus Gamecenter support and you have something that feels unique and well worth the initial cost.
Badland is a joy to watch, listen to and play. At times the gameplay may feel as if it's dragging you along with little control, but a split second's tap can also make all the difference between life and death and the journey is certainly worthwhile.
- Sound: 9
- Graphics: 10
- Gameplay: 8
- Longevity: 8
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