Badland is an (iOS) indie game through and through, which is made perfectly clear when you finish it and a screen comes up that says “100% indie game.” I don’t have any particular opinions about indie games in general, but I’ve seen some people consider them pretentious and hate on their tendency to roam more into the artsy side of things. I never really knew what they were talking about until I played Badland, though.
There’s not a lot here
For a game that costs three dollars more than the app store’s standard 99 cent price point, there’s not that much more content to this game than you’d find in other—cheaper—paid apps. I finished the game in a few hours and immediately uninstalled it because I knew that it was a game that I would never return to.
Is there a story?
When I first started the app, I saw someone or something hanging, a scene that repeated at the end of the game and that I’m assuming is hinting at some kind of story like “crazy inventor makes a bunch of weird birds who can become bouncy/sticky/big/small, then kills himself after seeing the horror he unleashed upon the world” or something. Granted, I don’t need a story, but there are a bunch of weird birds of some kind flying around randomly-placed buzz saws. A little bit of back story would probably be nice, given the circumstances.
This really ties into the whole “pretentious” thing. Had the hanging bit not been included, I’d have just assumed it was one of those gameplay-centric side-scrollers that had no story. Instead, stuff is presented and never really explained, and you can almost hear the hipsters talking between sips of their chai lattes, going, “Hey, whatever you believe is happening is the case because it’s all in your mind, man.” I want to make it clear that I’m not holding this against the game, but I can definitely see now how indie games could be perceived as pretentious.
You can only move forward
This is one of the most annoying aspects of Badland: because the only controls in the entire game are “tap to float up while your bird automatically moves to the right,” the whole game plays out like a cross between those awkward Mario levels with the forced screen scroll and the underwater levels from Donkey Kong Country. If you find yourself floating too low or too high and don’t magically divine where the game wants you to be, you can very easily become stuck and have to wait for the scrolling screen to catch up and kill you so that you can try again.
This is what makes Badland so bad
The entire game is based on luck. For example, one section has you find two clones, meaning you control three birds at once (all being controlled by the same taps). What you have to do is send one bird above to its death (to hit a switch), another below to its death (to get a power-up that allows you to fit through an upcoming small space), and guide the third bird through the middle path.
None of this is ever explained, nor is there ever any way of knowing that something like this is coming; every time you see a switch or power-up, you’re left to guess about how to approach the situation. Half of the time it leads to your death, so the game doesn’t revolve around fairly challenging the player so much as cheap deaths and memorization. While you have unlimited lives/tries, it’s still not fun to replay sections repeatedly, feeling more like poor design than a purposefully challenging game.
You can be punished for doing too well
Here’s something that happened: having gotten a power-up that created a second owl (or whatever type of bird it is), I got through a difficult section without losing the second bird, only to have the second bird catch up with me and get me jammed in a tight section. I was small enough to fit by myself, but was punished for keeping the second bird alive. This happened to me multiple times.
The save points are a mixed bag
There are two kinds of stages: “fast” stages where you quickly rush to the end, and the slower stages where there are a bunch of obstacles (and a bunch of cheap shots that come out of nowhere) that you have to get past. The first kind has no mid-level save points because the speed makes these levels short. The slower stages, however, have a few points that you’ll return to if you die. Oftentimes these are well-placed, putting you near whatever killed you and giving you another shot at it. There are, however, a few instances of saves being placed horribly, forcing you to go through multiple annoying sections repeatedly until you get it right. These were incredibly off-putting.
Yet another 2D silhouette game
In case you haven’t noticed, the whole “silhouette” art style has already been done to death by other games. Now, I don’t really have a problem with the uninspired art style, but everything being a shadow makes it difficult to see important things and thus unnecessarily complicates certain sections. In fact, a lot of times it seems as though the art style is used in order to hide things on purpose to frustrate the player. That being said, the colors of the background that change as you progress through levels are quite pleasant.
About the music…
There is none. Seriously, I’m pretty sure that there’s no music in the entire game. Granted, it has nice sound effects, but I don’t think you could reasonably call that “music.” The sound effects are really good, though.
Here’s what you should do: