Mobile gaming has a certain stigma that prevents it from being taken seriously by so called “real gamers”. This is especially true when mobiles games make their way to PC or home consoles, as you’ll often find dismissive comments at the first mention of the term “mobile port”. But what if the game in question is far more than that?
Badland was a 2013 Game of the Year award winning mobile title by Finnish developer Frogmind, that recently found a home on Xbox One at the end of May. It’s a 2D physics-based puzzle platformer where you guide a fuzzy clone from one end of a forest to the other, avoiding hazards and saving fellow clones along the way. New to the Game of the Year edition, the entire campaign can be played locally with up to 4-players on the same screen.
“It’s extremely easy to pick up and play, but the design is deceptively simple.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the original mobile version, your only means of controlling Clony was by tapping your touch screen to fly upwards, while letting gravity take its course to lower yourself. The game moves along on its own from left to right, and that hasn’t changed at all, but the entire control scheme has been reworked on Xbox, allowing for full directional control using the left analog stick, and using either A or the right trigger to fly around.
It’s extremely easy to pick up and play, but the design is deceptively simple. As you make your way through the forest, you’ll immediately notice the beautifully illustrated serene backdrops that are home to lush greens and silhouettes of living creatures. The foreground itself is draped in silhouettes, like Limbo, and during our live streams, the overall art style drew a lot of comparison to Ori and the Blind Forest, which is a huge compliment.
However, once night falls, Badland becomes populated with menacing machinery that integrates its way in to the level design. You could start off simply maneuvering around natural terrain, like rocky spires or falling boulders, but once the machines make their presence known, the wildlife seems to disappear as the game takes on a much more sinister persona. Not only do you still contend with nature at this point, but you’ll need to avoid being shredded to pieces by massive circular saws or being impaled by pointy spears. I loved how all of the levels felt alive, morphing from natural to bio-mechanical as the days went on.
Another prominent feature in Badland are the clones. The additional clones you pick up are all under your command, although they’re all controlled as a giant cluster rather than independently. Clones are awesome and adorable and you’re going to try and save as many as possible, but that’s not always going to happen. They’ll get chopped up in saws, crushed by rocks, and disintegrated by laser beams as you split them up in order to collect power-ups or press a switch. Don’t worry though, there’s plenty of them to go around. There were countless moments when I’d go from flying solo to having an entire screen full of clones trying desperately not to get left behind, and I’d scream at my TV “I’M SORRY!” as 90% of them ended up dying in the most horrific of ways.
“If there’s one word to sum up Badland, it’s “chaos”.”
And if that wasn’t chaotic enough, Badland allows you to play all 100 levels locally with up to 4 people. The game largely remains the same, and while you might be thinking to yourself there’s safety in numbers, you’re wrong. Hilariously wrong. Rather than relying on yourself, you now need to rely on 3 other people to split up and tackle different objectives. Communication becomes your greatest ally and your most crippling weakness as you’ll be laughing and cursing your way to the next level and the one after that.
There’s also a local competitive mode for up to 4 players, which has its own unique levels with plenty of opportunity to troll your friends. The objective is simple: make it further than everyone else by any means necessary. Ruin their trajectory and bump them in to lasers or explosives. Trust me, they’ll be doing the same thing to you. Both modes are a lot of fun, and each have their own Xbox achievements to unlock, but I *do* wish I had the option to play with my friends online. If you’re in to local multi-player though, you’ll have a good time with this one.
If there’s one word to sum up Badland, it’s “chaos”. There’s so much chaos in Badland that it was hard to tell what was going on at times, but that’s one of the things I enjoyed the most about it. Levels are designed so well that I was always on my toes, planning my next move, and then suddenly I’m in control of 100 clones while narrowly avoiding giant sawblades in slow motion. Three seconds later, I’m down to 2 clones and my palms are sweating as I finally managed to reach my destination, only to do it again 99 more times. It’s such an insane amount of carnage and strategy, and it’s just so ridiculously enjoyable.
The pacing is also downright phenomenal, and as soon as I got comfortable, the game would introduce a new hazard or power-up to keep things fresh. With over 100 levels to play through, it’s a damn fine accomplishment to avoid becoming stale and a testament to Frogmind’s skill as a platforming developer. The overall lack of story was a little bit of a let down though, but it didn’t prevent me from becoming immersed in the game’s world. Even without words, it still told the tale of a tiny clone escaping the most bi-polar forest in the world. The entire soundtrack was pretty forgettable though, as nothing really stood out for me during the 5 hours it took to complete it.
Overall, Badland is an incredible game that fans of puzzle platformers should definitely check out. Don’t let the whole “mobile port” thing discourage you either. It’s gorgeous to look at, a blast to play, and easily stands up there with some of the best in the genre.
Recommended for fans of: Limbo, So Many Me, Hero of Many, or puzzle platformers in general.
*This review is based on the Xbox One version of Badland: Game of the Year Edition, which is also available across all Playstation platforms, Wii U, and PC. If you’re interested, we encourage you to support this developer through whichever console you prefer. Unless we find significant differences between each version, consider this our definitive review.
Bradley Keene is the Executive Editor here at What’s Your Tag?, generally handling reviews, public relations, and our social media communications on Facebook and Twitter. He’s no stranger to sinking an absurd amount of time in to an MMO, but also has a deep seeded love for pro wrestling, horror films, and his hometown of Baltimore, MD. Get in touch with him by e-mail at the address above, or follow him on Twitter.