Badland: Game of the Year Edition
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Badland: Game of the Year Edition is a downloadable side-scrolling action game ported from mobile devices to consoles and PCs. Players control a small, black, flappy fellow who flies through traps and obstacles on a wordless mission to figure out what's gone wrong in his forest. He can be hurt by running into lasers, spikes, and gears that can cause him to bounce around the screen or even disintegrate, but there's no blood or gore. Light themes of environmentalism permeate the story, thanks to the growing presence of machine menaces within the forest. Multiplayer is restricted to local play, so there's no worries about any online dangers.
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What's it about?
Players take control of a creature named Clony in BADLAND: GAME OF THE YEAR EDITION, the console version of an award-winning mobile side-scrolling adventure. Clony's journey is set in a forest filled with obstacles and traps that he must avoid by flapping his stubby little wings to give himself just the right amount of lift to fly through narrow passages. He has to be quick about it; the screen never stops moving from left to right, so if Clony gets stuck and the left side engulfs him, it's game over. That means players need to pay attention to obstacles as they approach, working out how best to approach them. This also involves deciding whether to pick up transformative power-ups along the way, including items that can grow Clony in size, shrink him, or -- true to his name -- clone him into multiple entities. Sometimes one or more of these clones must be sacrificed by, say, traversing dead-end passages and performing an action that opens the way for the rest of the group. Groups of cloned Clonys are controlled as one, with each input action moving all members. Up to four friends can play a local multiplayer mode that sees players vying to outlast one another, potentially pushing each other into objects and traps.
Is it any good?
It's pretty clear that Badland was made for bite-size play sessions on mobile devices. The levels, while redesigned for consoles, are very short for a couch game, and the controls are a smidgeon too simplistic -- even with the added ability to use a control stick to control speed and direction rather than simply tap to control lift. Everything is optimized nicely, and the controls feel natural, but most players are used to (and probably expect) something a bit more complex when playing on a console.
But that's not to say this version of the popular side-scroller isn't challenging or fun. It's still a great little game with a gorgeous silhouette art style and a ton of personality (the glowing-eyed animals spied in level backgrounds remain wonderfully enigmatic). Working out how to get past cleverly designed obstacles and traps -- even if it's sometimes simply a process of trial and error -- is generally quite rewarding, and the slowly evolving story, simple though it may be, still manages to sink in a couple of hooks. Badlands: Game of the Year Edition isn't going to blow people's minds the way the original mobile version did for people playing it on phones, but the satisfying mechanics and quality of craftsmanship still shine through. There's much here to enjoy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. This game has very short levels, making it conducive to short play sessions; which other games lend themselves to quick bursts of interactive entertainment?
Discuss the impact our machine-driven civilization has on jungles and forests. What sorts of dangers, direct and indirect, do machines pose to nature?
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