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Badland Review: In Limbo
Limbo, released a few years back on Xbox Live Arcade, was a visually beautiful game, a glorious example of style over substance. Through its unique black and white art style, Limbo created a world that was incredibly inviting, but shallow gameplay mechanics ultimately limited the game’s appeal. This is a common problem with indie games that rely so heavily on visually assertive art styles, emphasis and resources are placed on art creation rather than basic gameplay.
Badland, an independently developed game recently released on the iOS app store, initially seems apt for this comparison. You control a tiny floating creature though a number of platforming obstacles with simple, one button touch controls. The first few moments aren’t exactly encouraging, usually devolving into a rather boring and uninspired slog to the end of the level. However, with the introduction of clones, the game really begins to change into something special. Split second reactions become more and more important, as the game challenges the player to solve puzzles at a breakneck pace without ever feeling unfair or obtuse. The clever ways the game evolves upon it’s mechanics never ceases to be enjoyable, creating a similar sense of discovery as invoked in games like Portal.
With a dark and muted art style heavily reminiscent of Limbo, Badland is immediately striking, and this captivating style evolves through the course of the game. Little touches, like animation, really make the difference here; every element of the game’s world feels alive and well-realized. The world Badland creates is bizarre and heavily metaphorical; multiple interpretations can be made of the world sparsely told story and history, and it’s substantially more engaging than one would expect. Further, the game’s music is tone-setting and exciting.
Badland isn’t exactly a short game, comprised of roughly forty levels. However, its unique and quirky world begs to be explored further, its mechanics further iterated upon. Badland’s menu lists a second world as “coming soon”, and it’ll be incredibly interesting to see how developer Frogmind Games builds upon the foundation established in these first levels. Hopefully they’ll be able to craft an experience as enjoyable and memorable as what’s currently available.