It’s time for week 4 of the Mobile Games Revue! Last week we talked about KAMI, an Asian papercraft-inspired puzzle game. This week, we’re going to take a departure from the relatively calm, casual mobile games to delve into Badland, an award-winning action game from Finnish developer Frogmind Games.
Badland is a side-scrolling action/puzzle game wherein the player takes on the role of a fat little flying object. Is it a bird? A dust mite of some kind? Who knows. The point is, you’re round and you have about the same amount of grace and poise as a drunk man trying out stiletto heels for the first time.
The controls literally could not be simpler: press the screen to ascend, lift your finger to let gravity do its thing. What on paper seems exceptionally easy, however, is a bit harder in practice. While precision is something that can eventually be mastered, you can expect to hear the game’s charming “bonk” noises a lot. The general goal is to get from one end of the long, rectangular levels to the other. Once you start flying, the world begins to scroll, so all you have to do is not get stuck on anything. In the beginning, anyway. As the levels progress, there are more and more gameplay elements to utilize. Sometimes these are “clones” – your character touches an item which releases a specific number of copies of you, which you now control all of (like a hivemind). These clones, including the original birdthing, are disposable: as long as at least one of it makes it to the end of the level, you win. There are, of course, achievements for saving as many clones as possible. Other aspects added as you progress are items that speed you up, slow you down, make you bigger or smaller, or make you spin in certain directions. Later levels also introduce more dangers: blades, saws, crushing rocks, and general mayhem.
Each level is its own challenge, and they gradually increase in difficulty the farther in you go. One major point in favor of the game is the fact that there are multiple checkpoints throughout each level, and restarting from failure is a quick and painless experience. You die, and the game immediately places you back at the next checkpoint – and the level doesn’t start back up until you touch the screen again. It’s a great way to get past a screw-up without losing your groove. There is also an option that allows you to skip to the next checkpoint if you’re absolutely stuck – which doesn’t cost anything except your self-esteem.
There are a lot of things that make Badland a good game. The black silhouetted graphics against detailed backgrounds (dotted with oddly ominous bunnies) gives the game a unique visual style. The puzzles are challenging but not impossible to overcome. The soundscape of the game is also exceptional – it’s what originally drew me to the game. I was at a family event, when my sister shows off her new Apple TV by pulling up this game and playing a few levels. I’d been doing something else, but the constant sounds of things falling through pipes finally made me look up. There’s no music in the levels (at least, the ones I’ve played), but there’s a pleasant jungle-y bird chirping track in the background, and in general the sounds in the game are one of the highlights.
If there is a bad part of the game, it’s that it can be a little overwhelming or confusing. I have no idea how many levels I’ve actually played (each time you complete a level, it fills out a little light in a mysterious black screen), or how well I’m doing. It’s got single player (which consists of a ton of normal levels, plus three extra unlockable level sets) and co-op and versus and a level creator (and community-curated levels to play) and leaderboards and seventy billion achievements and it’s connected to a ton of different social media and…you get the idea. Ultimately, these are good things. They contribute to the life of the game, and for dedicated players, are amazing options. But nevertheless, to casual players or new players, they can be a bit much to take in all at once.
The game does not have microtransactions outside of the game unlock, which costs $3.99 (on Android, at least. Prices may vary for iOS or PC). The game unlock grants access to the extra single player modes, the level creator, and removes ads(which admittedly were relatively non-intrusive even before the purchase). It took me a while to purchase the unlock because, as mentioned, the ads weren’t obnoxious, and you get access to plenty of puzzles even in the free version.
Ultimately it’s been a good experience for me so far, although I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what it ultimately has to offer. There’s little wonder that the game has won the awards it has, been ported to as many platforms as it has, and has even spawned a sequel.
Is there a mobile game on Android or iOS you’d like to see reviewed? Leave a comment below to let us know!