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Badland: Game of the Year Edition review

Our Verdict

Badland is a lightweight time-waster at heart, and it shows. It's perfect for a bus journey, out of place on a console that's about as portable as the Himalayas.

We don't judge people on looks here, because, well, look at the state of us. But even we have limits. Fuzzy, floating-face limits that Badland has stretched to breaking point. A 'bird' that looks like a decapitated dolls head with sad eyes and bat wings, that's what we have to play as? In a side-scroller where you're meant to avoid deadly traps, it'd probably be more humane to just let this monster die.

Luckily, in Badland you'll die a lot. Sharpened wheels shred, bombs boom, lasers blaze and the screen constantly moves right, happily murdering you for daring to fall behind. It's a game of constant retries, all controlled by holding a button to fly and using the analogue stick to swoop around collecting vital power ups (or not, as the case might be).

Fast paced and generously check pointed, getting through whole stages unscathed is a fistpump-worthy feat, the feeling of satisfaction dampened only by the suspicion you passed more on trial-an-error than with your hardcore gamer skillz. Hideous protagonist aside, it's not hard to see why this was a hit on iOS.

Spikes and lasers have been slaughtering us in games since the dawn of time but Badland's levels are littered with different power ups in an attempt to freshen up the derivative obstacle courses. Some make you large enough to bash puny obstacles aside while others make you small enough to squeeze through tight gaps. Time stopping/slowing powers brings a welcome variety of pace in the speedy stage design, but there's nothing new done with the mechanic. Badland's powers only started waking us up when it had us playing as multiple clones.

You pick up doppelgängers in certain stages, with all the increased difficulty/newfound parental responsibility that brings. A clever concept that plays out like a grotesque twist on the multiball feature found on pinball tables, and being responsible for a swarm of clones does change the way you play, especially when you're trying to get a big group to safety.

But safety isn't really an option. Often you'll be given a pack of clones, only to be faced with a tight, dangerous route that slaughters most of them. 'Keep throwing bodies at it until it goes away' is an entertaining solution to a problem, but not a smart one. Other puzzles are more complex, involving splitting up clones and tricky timing, but few stages really test the grey matter. Once a stage is done, there's little replay value or desire to try it again.

Not that there isn't a lot here, with four times as many stages as the iOS version. We would've been happier if we'd seen four times as many ideas. There are fun stages like having to play in darkness, use a tail to defend against beams, or an outstanding moment where you use a pack of clones to pilot a laser cannon, but these are few and far between. Too many stages are either forgettable, or have been done better in more ambitious titles.

The feel is that this is a serviceable iOS title that is somewhat exposed when blown up to the big screen. The aesthetics are nice enough, but a poor imitation of Limbo's silhouetted visual barrage. Playing around with time is too limited to have Braid checking its watch and a perfect run never has the satisfaction of a Rayman Legends sprint. Placed next to these console giants, Badland's roots as an iOS title really show. There's some fun to be found here, but including more content doesn't hide that these badlands were designed for portable gaming. On home consoles, where players are in it for the long-haul, it's much harder to justify the journey.

More Info

GenreAdventure
DescriptionBADLAND is an atmospheric side scrolling adventure game where players control one of the forests inhabitants and guide him through imaginative traps and obstacles.
PlatformPS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One, Wii U, PC, iPhone, iPad
US censor ratingEveryoneRating Pending
Release date26 May 2015 (US), 27 May 2015 (UK)

The Verdict

2.5

2.5 out of 5

BADLAND

Badland is a lightweight time-waster at heart, and it shows. It's perfect for a bus journey, out of place on a console that's about as portable as the Himalayas.