Mobile Game of the Week: Badland (iOS)

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Mobile Game of the Week: <i>Badland</i> (iOS)

On the surface, Badland is just another physics-based platformer starring a cute creature and a simple control scheme. But before you immediately move on to a more “serious” game, you should know something: Badland has something special going for it. It is a game that exists for one and only one purpose: creating simple moments of joyful realization for its players. Thanks to the game’s excellent design and disarming sense of whimsy, those moments of revelation come continuously throughout the game’s entirety.

In Badland, you play as an adorable little circular creature who lives and floats across a post-human world of overgrown organic matter and spinning gears. What you learn from the very first level is that the world of Badland is a dangerous place. The player has no defense against falling rocks, spinning spikes and hanging mines, other than to carefully float across the side-scrolling landscape and try to make it to the other side. Fortunately, getting from Point A to Point B has never been so fun.

The world of Badland isn’t all doom and gloom though—it’s also full of humor and wonder, which you will quickly discover as you watch your little creature frantically bounce around the environments. Most of the objects and obstacles in the foreground appear as silhouettes, while the backgrounds are bright and detailed. It’s an increasingly trendy look for sidescrollers, but in Badland it’s done well and probably hides what would have been some blurry textures. Sound design is the final thing to note about what an incredible job developer Frogmind has done at establishing the feel of this world. There is no music in Badland—just the sound of you bumping against various object, flies buzzing around the scene, and various other atmospheric sounds echoing through the scenes.

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If you ever played the classic neverending flash game Helicopter, the mechanics of Badland will be instantly familiar. Just tap anywhere on the screen to get the creature floating—hold to float him to the top of the screen and let go to see gravity take its effect. Controlling your little creature is by no means graceful, and it’s certainly not meant to be. Thanks to the fantastic physics and responsive controls, just simply being in this world as this character is an absolute joy.

The simple controls and limited player action are a success in that they get out of the way of Badland’s primary strength: level design. The stages in Badland are absolutely brilliant, constantly providing those “Aha!” moments of revelation and challenging you to experiment. You’ll feel the presence of the developer throughout the game as you marvel at how many times they iterate on gameplay ideas and still find ways to surprise you up to the very end. The design is both clever and lighthearted—traits that definitely evoke feelings Nintendo has always been good at conjuring up.

Added to the perilous journey are special “power-up” balls that will either give your character special abilities or change its physical appearance. Without giving away the surprise of discovering them on your own, I will just say that you will smile, you will gasp—and most importantly, you will laugh out loud at the pure whimsy of the power-ups and how they affect your character.

Badland not only succeeds in nailing just about every aspect of the basic gameplay, it even features a frenetic 4-player local co-operative mode (yes, this is four fingers on an iPhone), achievements, a ton of levels and plenty more reasons to come back for more when you’re done with all that. Like games such as Rayman: Jungle Run and Jetpack Joyride (Paste’s 2012 and 2011 Mobile Games of the Year), Badland proves once again that iOS games are often best played with one finger.

Developer: Frogmind
Price: $3.99
Platform: iOS
Release Date: 03/25/13