Having started life as a mobile title, Badland now attempts to entice a new audience to its challenging, physics-based endless runner-esque experience by appearing on all three PlayStation platforms – including the PlayStation 4. And with its enhanced visuals and multitude of additional levels, it makes a decent transition.
Badland: Game of the Year Edition abruptly begins with no exposition, as you take control of an odd looking furry critter with wings. A moment reminiscent of Limbo proceeds as you experiment with button presses and figure out precisely how to control this strange fellow, where holding X or R2 flaps the creature's wings, causing you to gain elevation.
As you start to move, the left-hand side of the screen begins to chase you, promising death if it engulfs you. Thus, as you move to the right, it's up to you to dodge the blacked out obstacles in the foreground to stay at safety. At the end of this first level, you're then sucked into a tube and moved on to the next obstacle-ridden stage.
The mechanics are then slowly revealed to you with a brilliant 'play, don't show' philosophy. Obstacles that block your path can be manipulated with your weight to create openings, or destroyed entirely by crashing into them. Flying too high or low causes your critter to bounce comically off the floor and ceiling, making your flight intractable and encouraging more thoughtful progress.
Gradually, more mechanics are introduced, such as power-ups that shrink your winged creature, allowing you to traverse small openings and tunnels – or even increase your size so that your weight can be used on stronger barriers. Eventually, the cloning power-up is revealed – the crux of the Badland experience – which, once collected, clones your fuzzy chap, allowing you to eventually fill the screen with flapping heroes.
It's a wonderful spectacle to see dozens of creatures fluttering about, smashing into breakable obstacles and tumbling through tunnels. It also leads to more complex puzzles, incorporating multiple paths where you must sacrifice some of your clones down one dead end in order to trigger the path forwards for the rest of your posse. This offers a novel way of solving puzzles, while maintaining the fast pace that the forever moving screen demands.
Cogs, lasers, falling debris, spinning blades, and more are introduced to maim, crush, and otherwise kill you and your clones – and the challenge soon climbs as a result. The short levels usually mean that each can be completed within a minute or so, with an 'out of three' rating determined by your deaths, speed, and amount of clones saved – but some particularly tricky sections will crop up and stump you for upwards of 10 minutes, as you constantly die trying to traverse them. Fortunately, generous checkpoints and fast loading means that the frustration is curbed, but certainly not completely eliminated. And this means that the 100 levels, as rich with puzzle variety as they are, soon feel insurmountable or not worth the effort.
An additional 100 co-op levels are also available for up to four players, alongside 27 battle levels, where playing with friends and enjoying the charming aesthetic and challenging puzzles together is highly enjoyable and satisfying. However, you are limited to local play, unfortunately.
Badland: Game of the Year Edition translates to PlayStation platforms well. The understated but attractive aesthetic runs smooth and fast on all platforms, and there's tons of content. The challenge does get a little stiff, however, and the experience was clearly designed around short play sessions. It's unlikely to hold your interest forever, then, but for the short time that it does it's a splendid game.