Balan Wonderworld Overview – Not So Great
Swap between quite a few costumes that every grant you a single energy and search out collectibles in a colourful 3D platformer tormented by questionable design selections.
Developer: Arzest, Sq. Enix
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Sequence X/S, Nintendo Swap (reviewed)
MonsterVine was supplied with a Swap code for assessment.
The demo for Balan Wonderworld didn’t depart me impressed, however I held out hope that the ultimate recreation can be a giant enchancment. Sadly, it isn’t. Balan Wonderworld begins with an sad youngster, both a boy or lady you get to decide on between at the beginning, operating away from their scenario and assembly Balan, who says they’re lacking their coronary heart and sweeps them off into his wonderworld. That’s just about all of the story context you get. After that cutscene, you end up within the Isle of Tims hub world to start out visiting worlds and grabbing collectibles. In my unique preview, I urged this lack of context is perhaps as a result of it was a demo, however that isn’t the case.
I don’t want numerous story in my 3D platformers; “the princess has been captured and you want to discover these stars to unlock the doorways” is sweet sufficient for me in terms of this style, however one way or the other Balan Wonderworld lacks even that. Every world is crammed with golden statues of Balan, and when you get sufficient Balan Statues, you activate a prepare to extra worlds… or somewhat, the prepare drives you across the island whereas extra world entrances pop up round it. You additionally accumulate colourful drops in every world, which you’ll then feed to the Tims, small creatures that reside on the Isle of Tims. Feeding Tims finally allows you to hatch extra Tims, and also you’ll additionally discover eggs hidden as collectibles. The hub incorporates a tower that’s slowly constructed because the Tims spin a wheel, so having extra Tims accelerates that course of. As a result of gameplay loop of grabbing drops, feeding Tims, and visiting extra worlds, I most likely would have assumed constructing the tower was the primary aim of the sport if it didn’t really say “sub-objective.” Tims are cute, and watching them pace throughout the island to eat the drops I’d scattered was one of many issues I really actually loved within the recreation. The principle aim or not, it was sure my driving motivation to maintain going into these worlds.
Regardless of having massive areas to discover, the phases have a reasonably linear development, with a single aim to achieve on the finish and facet paths to discover alongside the best way to seek out the collectibles. Every world has two phases after which a boss battle (plus a 3rd stage unlocked after you beat the primary recreation). Whereas every boss solely takes three hits to defeat, you get a Balan Statue for every part you injury the boss in. This provides a puzzle-like ingredient as you strive to determine how you can use your costumes to assault in several phases in order for you all three statues. Cutscenes earlier than and after the boss battle clarify that world’s story, and so they all comply with an analogous construction: a personality has a dream or ardour, one thing occurs to fill them with damaging feelings and so they fall into darkness, and your battle towards the boss frees them and lets them discover their happiness once more. It’s an attention-grabbing idea, and I simply want the sport really linked these disjointed tales to the overarching recreation a bit extra clearly. Bafflingly, there’s a novel tie-in that includes the story context the sport is lacking, and it will have been so a lot better if that was really within the recreation.
The core gameplay revolves round discovering unlockable costumes, and that is the place the true flaws begin to present. Costumes are scattered throughout the degrees, and also you want a key to choose one up. The secret is normally a number of ft away, making it a pointless method so as to add time to the method. For those who die, you’ll lose your geared up costume and wish to choose it up once more in case you nonetheless wish to use it. Each face button does the very same factor, and your geared up costume determines what that’s. Some costumes can soar. Some can assault, however not soar. Greater than as soon as I discovered myself in hassle as a result of I didn’t have any kinds that might soar. Oh, and since each face button does the identical factor, this implies there isn’t a “cancel” button in menus, both. There are 80 completely different costumes within the recreation, however some are almost similar whereas others are slight variations on one another, and there are some with such extremely particular features that you simply’ll hardly ever use them once more.
For those who take injury, your present costume disappears. You may have three costumes with you at a time and swap between them utilizing the shoulder buttons. For those who choose up a fourth costume, the final one on the record goes into your dressing room. That’s necessary as a result of the sport treats costumes as gadgets. Along with selecting up costumes within the worlds themselves, you may change your costumes from the dressing room at any checkpoint, however solely when you’ve got them saved. Since every world has its personal set of costumes, in case you want an earlier costume to achieve a Balan Statue or different collectible however don’t have any copies of that costume left, you’ll should revisit the older world to choose it up once more. This highlights the primary drawback with Balan Wonderworld–the whole lot is so tedious.
One other sort of collectible is a golden hat that triggers a “Balan’s Bout” sequence. This can be a QTE mini-game wherein Balan soars by way of the sky, punching rocks and generally preventing the primary antagonist (though with the shortage of story context, I concluded he was the primary antagonist largely as a result of he seems in these sequences and sometimes drops a mini-boss in your path). Your success determines what number of bonus drops you get, and in case you hit each QTE immediate completely, you get a Balan Statue. You don’t get a “retry” choice, although. For those who miss even a single good button press, you’ll want to depart the world, return and discover your method again to the hat, after which strive it once more in order for you the statue. There are solely a handful of variations of Balan’s Bouts, so that they get fairly monotonous. By the top, I used to be discovering a number of Balan’s Bouts in every world, which made their lack of variation much more noticeable and tiresome.
I can’t assist however think about how a lot better Balan’s Wonderworld would really feel if it was designed in a different way. Think about in case your three costumes have been every mapped to a face button, so you possibly can use your three geared up powers at any time. Think about if as a substitute of an enormous variety of barely completely different costumes, you had a smaller lineup of costumes with upgrades or variations primarily based on the world. Think about if the hub world really had extra issues to do, or if Balan’s Bouts didn’t repeat the identical few variations over and over. However that’s not the sport we received, and wishing it was received’t do any good. Efficiency on the Swap model struggles at occasions, normally not sufficient to hinder gameplay, however with a number of elements that reached egregiously unhealthy body charges.
Balan Wonderworld isn’t all unhealthy. The cutscenes are completely beautiful, the music is nice, the psychological premise is intriguing, and I actually just like the designs for Balan and his nemesis. There have been occasions once I had enjoyable taking part in this recreation, like once I’d get a brand new costume with a cool energy or spot a Balan Statue and notice what I wanted to do to achieve it. But it was all the time solely a matter of time earlier than the sport would hit me with one more tedious design determination that would depart me asking, “However why? Why design it like this?” That sums up my expertise with Balan Wonderworld. It has some attention-grabbing concepts, however the variety of tedious design selections in the end drags it down.
The Ultimate Phrase
Balan Wonderworld isn’t a horrible recreation, but it surely isn’t a very good one, both. For those who’re a diehard fan of 3D platformers and also you’ve run out of higher video games to play within the style, you would possibly get some enjoyment out of Balan Wonderworld, however provided that you’re keen to place up with numerous tedium alongside the best way.
-MonsterVine Ranking: 2.5 out of 5 – Mediocre