BADLAND, a stylish cave flier/puzzle platformer hybrid from Frogmind, is now available from the app store. Featuring silhouetted foreground aesthetics, brilliant one-touch controls, and plenty of objectives to keep gamers busy, BADLAND is a standout game that we can’t stop playing.
- Gorgeous aesthetic, smooth animations, and insidious puzzles
- Ominous soundtrack and great sound effects
- Intuitive one-tap controls are responsive
- Three goals per level and aggregate saved clones count
- Same-device Multiplayer race mode for up to 4 players
- GameCenter leaderboards and achievements to earn
- Does not show completed goals at level end
- Begging for online Multiplayer option
BADLAND contains 40 levels of play spread across 4 different periods during a single day. You control an amorphous creature with tiny wings, whose goal is to fly through a trap-laden puzzle environment in search of the suction tube that will whisk him to the next level. Along the way, he encounters all manner of obstacles, from thin branches that momentarily hamper his progress to spinning saw blades that obliterate him if he gets too close. There are maze-like formations, propellers, mines, falling rocks, sticky walls, and more that threaten to impede him progress and allow the scrolling left wall to catch up to him, which will cause instant death. BADLAND forces you to learn its intended pathway and time your flight/roll patterns to keep ahead of the deadly threat at all times. A number of power-up orbs are found in each level, too. Touching an orb can make your character expand, shrink, speed up, slow down, roll, stick to objects, bounce around a level, and even clone itself into multiple beings. Some of these are simply helpful if you pick them up. Others are necessary, as you may need to find three shrinking orbs in a location in order to fit through a very tiny gap in the scenery. Miss even one of these and you’ll be too big to pass through, helpless to do anything other than wait for the wall to catch up to you.
Your character can only move forward, unless he continues to fly upward against a backward-facing inclined ceiling. This will allow him to roll backward until he loses contact with the ceiling and resumes his forward motion. The cloning orb is often used to create scenery fodder, as most of your clones will be eviscerated by some upcoming obstacles. As long as just one instance of your character survives, you can continue on. A generous checkpoint system ensures that you won’t have to backtrack too far if and when you do die. Once you reach the tube, you and any of your clones are sucked in and pulled instantly to the next level. Each level has 3 goals for you to complete, such as finishing the level in only one try, saving X number of clones, collecting all power-ups, etc. Some will be a breeze to complete, while others may seem near-impossible (can’t count the number of times that I saved 29 out of the 30 clones necessary to complete one goal). Our main gripe was that we weren’t given any feedback at the end of a level as to which, if any, goals we had completed. We had to back out to the level screen via the pause menu to see if we had collected any of the 3 eggs that represent our goals. The game offers a lot of statistical info, such as how many clones were saved in each level and overall, how many times clones were killed by a variety of methods, how far you’ve flown, how long you’ve played, how many screen taps you’ve used, how many levels were completed in one try, and more.
Graphically, BADLAND employs a gorgeous visual style where foreground items are silhouetted against a stunning backdrop. It gives things a bit of a menacing appeal, and it’s not always easy to tell where a dangerous piece of scenery lurks. There is a replay system available through Everyplay that records your run through a level and allows you to watch it when you’re done, giving you an opportunity to appreciate the background imagery without having to focus on the foreground action. Puzzle design is outstanding, with both lengthy and brief levels full of inventive traps as you progress through the game. Animations are smooth as can be, giving the game an elegant feel overall. The soundtrack is subdued and ominous, setting a great mood for your solo journey through a dangerous and desolate landscape. The sound effects (flapping wings, explosions, hollow pipes, etc.) add nicely to the overall presentation. The control scheme requires simple screen taps for any and all actions. As in most cave flyers, tapping makes your character rise and releasing makes him fall. Holding the screen will allow for a smooth ascent, which is also very helpful when you’ve grown so big that your tiny wings strain to lift your mass off of the ground. Holding the screen can also initiate a roll when you are at the screen top, as well as release you from a wall to which you’ve become stuck. They are wonderfully responsive and are not limited to a certain button or section of the screen.
Replay value is great, despite the lack of point totals, speedrun times, and the like. The visuals and puzzles alone compel us to replay for the experience, and the three-goal system gives us something to shoot for while we do. An aggregate number of saved clones also gives us a reason to replay levels with clone orbs in the hope of squeezing a few more bodies through the insidious traps and boosting our overall numbers. GameCenter integration provides a handful of leaderboards and more than 2 dozen achievements to earn. There is even a local Multiplayer mode that allows up to 4 players to control the action on a single device as you all make your way to the finish tube. A universal app for $3.99, BADLAND is a must-play 5-Dimple game.