Originally released as a mobile game, Badland was recognised by Apple in 2013 as one of the best games of the year. No mean feat when 2013 saw titles such as Ridiculous Fishing, Rymdkapsel and The Room 2 release on iOS platforms.
This is why the PlayStation Vita version of Frogmind’s side-scrolling, physics-based adventure game has ‘Game of the Year’ tagged onto the end of it’s title and this release is the most complete yet – with over four times the amount of content here than there was when the original version released two years ago.
In Badland, you play as a blob-like creature that is called Clony and you must navigate Clony through the woods that feature in the game. The stages that you will play through in the main part of the game are split into two days, with each day holding 40 stages – these spit evenly into different times (Dawn, Dusk, Noon and Night). As you progress through these stages, avoiding the obstacles that the game throws your way, you will notice strange goings on in the woods.
These goings on appear to be the game’s narrative, with machines coming to life and adding to the dangers that lurk along Clony’s path. Badland: Game of the Year Edition also features two additional level packs titled Doomsday and Daydream. These stages see you take control of two new characters called Snorfy and Fury, tasking you with escaping the woods and revealing a little more towards the game’s overall plot.
The story in Badland: Game of the Year Edition is trivial, and is certainly not the focal point of this title and this shows. There is not much point having a story to make you care about Clony when you spend most of the game watching him die as you try to figure out what you need to do in order to progress.
It is quite hard to describe how Badland plays, the best way I can think of describing it is what you would get if you crossed the look of Limbo, the control scheme of Flappy Bird, the physics of Angry Birds, the power-ups of an endless runner and the brutality of Ethan: Meteor Hunter. It is worth noting that Badland released prior to some of these titles, and they do say that imitation is the highest form of flattery!
Controlling Clony through the many stages is simple. You will hold X to make Clony soar for the skies, whilst tapping X will make him flap his wings to keep at a steady height. This control scheme also translates to the PlayStation Vita’s touchscreen, and feels very similar to that bird-based game that frustrated many mobile gamers last year. You will also need to use the left analogue stick to guide Clony from left to right, I found that this made the touchscreen controls pretty redundant as it was tricky trying to use the combination of these controls and being able to see what was going on on-screen as this was obstructed by my hands.
There are power-ups to collect as you make it through each stage. These vary from orbs that will make you either bigger or smaller, make the side-scrolling speed up or slow down, orbs that make you spin clockwise or anti-clockwise and ones that will either cause you to bounce off objects or stick to them.
These orbs make getting through each of the game’s 100 stages a little more interesting, but after you’ve played five or ten levels, you have pretty much played them all. There is not much in the way of variety in this game and, bar the ever-changing backgrounds and the appearance of new obstacles that placed in ways that will almost certainly kill you, you will probably find Badland rather repetitive at times.
The one thing that did bring me enjoyment whilst playing this game was the pick-up that caused Clony to be cloned (in case you were wondering where the name came from). As you progress through the game’s stages you will often find yourself having to control multiple Clony’s at once as you try to navigate through a level’s obstacles.
All of these clones will move in unison, so if you hold X they will all rise upwards. You may find that some of the clones may fall behind and be killed off by the sharp wheels, bombs, lasers or even the ever scrolling screen but do not worry too much, as long as one iteration of Clony makes it through and to the next checkpoint that is all that matters!
There are of course trophies and challenges that will require you to get as many of the clones to a stage’s exit point, but chances are you will be happy with getting any there such is the brutality of some of Badland‘s challenges. Speaking of trophies, for those that are gluttons for punishment there is a Platinum trophy in Badland – but I can’t see many people obtaining this due to some of the punishing trophies that are up for grabs.
It is clear that this was originally designed as a title for mobile platforms. The gameplay is definitely designed for quick five minute bursts while you are waiting for a bus or have a few minutes to kill. If you are like me and tend to play your PlayStation Vita for longer periods (anywhere between 30mins to a few hours) you may find that you get bored playing long before you’re ready to put your Vita down.
All is not lost with Badland however – I do like the game’s art style, with gorgeous looking backdrops and brilliant animations. Almost everything in the foreground of the screen is black, with vivid reds and whites used for lasers, pushable buttons and Clony’s eyes. The backgrounds that you will see in each stage are colourful, vivid and also change as you progress further in the game – with glimpses of things to come and plot elements hidden here. The only thing I will say is do not admire the backgrounds too much or you will find yourself constantly being taken back to the game’s generous checkpoints.
Badland’s audio does leave a little to be desired for though. The game does use a lot of ambient background noise to mimic the sounds you would expect to hear if you were making your way through the woods but this is about as much as your ears are treated to. I would have loved to have heard some relaxing background music in this game to complement the fantastic visuals yet contrast with the frantic gameplay that plays out as you plough through the stages.
The game also features Co-Op and Multiplayer, but this is local only. You can play either competitively or co-operatively with a friend using the same PlayStation Vita, with you either using the touchscreen or a combination of the face buttons and the touchscreen depending on which mode you are playing. I didn’t explore much of this mode if I am honest, but this may add a little longevity to what is a short game.
The main story missions do also offer additional challenges once you have completed them for the first time – including tasks such as completing a stage in less than X amount of tries or completing a stage with X amount of clones making it to the exit – but again, I didn’t feel the urge to go back and replay the single player mode once I’d beat it.
Badland did win a Game of the Year award back in 2013, but that was when it released on a device where similar games thrived. There is no doubting that Badland would be a fun smartphone game, but the PlayStation Vita is an entirely different beast.
It is hard to recommend purchasing Badland: Game of the Year Edition when there are so many other games out there at a similar price point that will offer a lot more depth and will feel more at home on the PlayStation Vita. Releasing within weeks of Broken Age, Octodad and Shovel Knight, Badland would be lucky to be a contender for the PlayStation Vita’s Game of the Week – let alone Year!