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Badland title screen

Badland Game of the Year Edition was an impulse purchase for me, and one I didn't expect to like as much as I do. I found it in the Nintendo eShop amid all the games on sale during the Christmas holidays, and the striking graphics grabbed my attention immediately.

I don't usually enjoy sidescrolling games, but I decided to take a chance with Badland mostly because I really like how it looks. The “clones” you control and the obstacles you have to guide them through are just black silhouettes, while the backgrounds are beautiful and sometimes sinister scenes of a fantastical forest. The vivid background colours contrast beautifully with the silhouetted foreground.

The levels don’t have any music, instead they have ambient forest sounds that make the game feel relaxing even when you are trying madly to keep your clones from getting killed by the various fatal contraptions.

The object of the game is to get your character and as many clones as you can to the end of the level. You only use the A button - hold it or press it repeatedly to make your character flap his little arms and fly up, and let go of the button to drop down.

Along the way there will be different kinds of powerups you can collect, some with positive effects and some with negative effects. For example, some powerups will make your creature bigger or smaller, which will help to get through different kinds of obstacles, while another will make your creature stick to any surface it touches, which is especially bad if you’re not that skilled at controlling your character (I had a lot of trouble with that one).

Badland has a single player mode, but also a multiplayer co-op mode for up to 4 players, and a versus mode. I originally bought it for the single player mode and didn’t even realize it had multiplayer until I opened it for the first time and saw the option in the menu.

When my family came over for Christmas a few days ago, we went through all the multiplayer games I had bought in the last 2 years since we had last had a Christmas get-together. This was a desperate attempt on my part to avoid being forced to play Overcooked for the hundredth time - that game causes me so much frustration - and when we tried out Badland I knew we had a winner!

In co-op you have to work together to get to the end of each level. It's the perfect kind of co-op game to play when the players are all at different skill levels, because if a player's clones all die, they will get a new clone to control as soon as someone picks up a powerup to make more clones.

This way nobody is left twiddling their thumbs for long, and if everyone dies it doesn't make you start at the beginning of the level again, instead just respawning all players in a spot just before the last player's clone died.

When I was playing this with my parents, even though they don’t often play games, each of us contributed to completing the levels. For example, one of us would have to sacrifice our clone to get a powerup that would shrink everyone and allow the other players to pass through a tiny opening, or 2 of us would die and the last survivor would need to carry on alone until they could get a clone powerup to bring us back.

I only have two gripes about the game, but they are just nitpicks really. I wish we could change which buttons do what, because I lost count of the amount of times during co-op play where someone accidentally pressed the restart level button because it was too close to the A button. And the fact that you only use one button also worries me - with the amount of times you press it during each level, I worry it will get worn out. But I have no idea if that's a realistic concern or not. I could probably solve both these problems by remapping the controls in the Switch's settings and saving them as I preset, but then I'd have to switch presets before and after playing and that would get pretty annoying.

My other gripe is that I wish we could turn down certain sounds in the game. They do have a volume slider for sounds, but it turns down ALL sounds, which I could just as easily do with the volume controls on the Switch itself. The forest ambient sounds are really beautiful and I would like to keep them at their usual volume, while removing or at least turning down the clanging or slapping sound that happens whenever your clone hits their head on something. Although I really love playing Badland, that doesn't mean I'm any good at it, so my poor clones get their heads bashed a lot!

Conclusion

I really enjoy playing this game, both in single player and multiplayer. The beautiful graphics and ambient sounds combine to make a really relaxing experience (which helps keep me calm even when my clones keep dying). The fact that getting through the levels require a degree of puzzle solving adds to the feeling of accomplishment you get from completing a level.

I’m looking forward to playing this game together with my family again the next time we-re all together, and in the meantime I will definitely keep playing it on my own as well. I think I learnt a few tricks while playing in co-op that I’d like to try applying in single player.

This game gets a thumbs up from Last Gen Gaming!




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