Badland Review: One-Button Physics Action Perfect for the Artistically Inclined
If you’re an iOS developer who’s about to release something that’s already been done in the App Store, you better hope your product at least looks better than the competition… In the case of Badland from Frogmind, the previous statement very much applies. Badland is a one-button physics game that feels part Tiny Wings and part World of Goo—just to name a few of its possible influences—but it’s all wrapped in an entirely unique and vivid art style that will ensure it leaves a strong impression that’s all its own.
Badland is a game about a dark, eery forest populated by “inhabitants.” These inhabitants are black, orb-like critters that sport spiky hair and come in varying sizes. You control one of them—or sometimes, a whole lot of them simultaneously—and try to navigate your way through a myriad of death traps strewn throughout the forest. Your goal is always to get to the suction tunnel at the end, and the more inhabitants you have with you upon arrival, the better you’ll score.
Not much more can be said about the “story” of Badland. One gets the feeling that the player is supposed to provide the rest of the details, and it’s really quite easy to do given the atmospheric sights and sounds that accompany you through each stage. Whether the sun is rising or night is upon them, the inhabitants enjoy gorgeous backdrops as they fly, bounce, and slide their way to ultimate death or victory.
Since the controls are one-button, we can keep this part brief… To get your inhabitants moving and let the screen to scroll to the right, all you have to do is tap and hold or touch and release. Depending on the input, the inhabitant will flap its wings and move forward or fly to the top of the screen. Once you get a feel for it, the inhabitant can be made to glide through the stages however you like—though don’t be surprised if some parts require more than a few tries, since there’s often only one right away and it’s not always easily guessed upon your approach.
Herein lies the beauty of Badlands. Its challenges arise unexpectedly and require quick thinking and a nimble finger. One moment you might be soaring along unobstructed, while the next it becomes necessary to split your group of inhabitants into two groups to trigger a mechanism that will allow at least a few of them to proceed deeper into the level… This is all infinitely more difficult when you factor in the orbs that will be picked up along the way—instantly making your inhabitant(s) smaller or bigger, slower or faster, or even multiplied by a great number. In short, you can’t plan for what will happen next as you journey through Badland, and even if you could, sometimes you’ll be relegated to just watching things unfold and learning what to try on the next go-through. Luckily, watching is never boring in a game that packs as much visual flair as Badland.
If there’s any downside to Badland, it’s only in the fact that sometimes it feels less like a game and more like a physics demonstration over which you don’t have much control. But it’s an entertaining demonstration, and one we think you’ll find yourself returning to again and again… Fortunately, there’s already lots to do in Badland, with 40 levels and more coming in updates. Additionally, you can mess with the multiplayer mode, which allows for four players even on an iPhone. Expect heated interactions after forcing your friends’ inhabitants into buzz saws or causing them to be crunched in massive gears.
Overall, Badland is a first-effort from Frogmind that we feel points to a very bright future for this developer down the road. It might not introduce revolutionary gameplay, but as physics titles go, it hold its own and does so while offering an amazing visual experience.
Our Score: 4 Out of 5 Stars