Quickie Reviews are 500 word reviews designed to get across what makes a game great, or awful, in under 2 minutes. Today I am looking at – Balan Wonderworld.
Now that Game Of The Year is over, it’s time to take a brief look at one of the worst games to grace 2021. If an ongoing pandemic wasn’t enough, gamers everywhere got a taste of Yuji Naka’s latest passion project, Balan Wonderworld. With a pre-release demo acting like a portent of things to come, the final product was a festering mess scattered over the dying remains of the game industry’s putrescent body.
It would be easy to assume I am huffing a hyperbolic bong in an attempt to chase the magical satire dragon, but you’d be wrong. Balan Wonderworld fails on practically every conceivable level and actively ignores every mechanical progression made since 1996.
3D Platforming Done Wrong
Balan Wonderworld, at its core, is a 3D Collectathon Platformer in the vein of Mario 64 or Banjo Kazooie. You run around jumping on things, hitting things, and picking things up. That’s the game. This isn’t a bad thing – this formula has existed for decades and continues to thrive with the likes of Mario Odyssey and A Hat In Time.
Balan Wonderworld truly drops the ball when it frequently removes the ability to jump. In a game where a third of the game’s structural pillars requires vertical movement, Balan just says no. Not only that, it replaces this with incredibly situational – often useless abilities that actively hinder progression or, at times, completely break the game.
Balan is also empty. Harrowingly so. NPCs will be jigging and jiving to the beat, but whenever you get too close, they fade from existence. Almost like you are a pariah and the game’s inhabitants are shunning you. That, or the game’s engine is screaming and simply can’t process that many NPCs on screen at once. Who knows.
The Best Part In Balan Wonderworld
One of the biggest selling points in Balan Wonderworld is its music – which is great. Truly excellent in places. Mind you, some tracks are almost stolen from the aforementioned, Mario Odyssey. The similarities are so stark, I checked to see if Nintendo had launched a lawsuit against Square Enix. They haven’t.
Finally, the game, from my experience, is simply broken. The game can’t hold a steady frame rate, the graphics are genuinely hideous, and you can see where Yuji and company cut corners everywhere. I stumbled into co-op and my levels of frustration increased ten-fold as even more baffling design choices came to light, and all semblance of balance or thought went out the window.
Then we have the bugs and glitches. Whilst not as common as one would assume in a hastily cobbled together mess like this, they do still exist. I once clipped through the universe and saw Yuji Naka’s screaming, tormented soul at the core of Balan. It was desperately calling out to me, begging me to end its suffering. Little did I know, at that moment I too was trapped – spiralling endlessly through oblivion. Just as I went to close the game, I appeared back on solid ground as if nothing happened at all.
Banal Blunderworld is a game that will not go down in infamy. In fact, it’s a game that will be forgotten long before its anniversary. Bad design, terrible gameplay, ugly visuals, twocked audio, and bizarre glitches end whatever legacy this game may have had. Did I mention Square Enix dared to charge £60 for this? Because Square Enix dared to charge £60 for this.
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