Sawbuck Gamer


Dark And Pretty

Darkness is a welcome comfort in Badland.

By Ryan Smith • April 9, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).

Had Tim Burton decided to try his hand at making a mobile game, it might look a lot like Badland. It’s Angry Birds, if that bright cartoonish world were sucked into a black hole and spit out into some goth-like alternate dimension of swampy alien jungles full of sinewy vines and shadowy spikes.

The puffy protagonists of Badland, however, can’t be slingshotted to their goal like the disgruntled avians of that other bird game. Instead, tapping the touchscreen makes the coal-black creatures flap their ineffectual wing-like limbs in an attempt to outrun the ever-encroaching—and death dealing—left side of the screen. You’ll pick up lots of power-ups as you scoot past threatening saw blades and bomb-like plants. Some of these boosts will balloon your blobby avatar so you can force your way through obstacles. Others shrink it, giving you the option to squeeze through tight openings. Another spawns multiple clones, so that you’re manically guiding a dozen beasts into a level-ending pipe. However, the power-ups aren’t always helpful—grabbing a growth potion at the wrong time, for example, may get you stuck in a small hole, leaving you to be swallowed up by the auto-scrolling screen.

Badland’s one-fingered, physics-based puzzles too often rely on trial and error, and there’s an occasional sense of overfamiliarity (beyond an intriguing last-man-standing multiplayer mode), but the game’s beautiful visuals and sense of dark atmosphere transcend the tedium.

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8 Responses to “Dark And Pretty”

  1. duwease says:

    Does this mean that “the puffy protagonist of Badland” is played by Helena Bonham Carter?

  2. Enkidum says:

    Also looks a lot like Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet and World of Goo, based on that one screenshot. Both of which have art that I thoroughly approve of, so if this is a trend, I likes it.

  3. social_bobcat says:

    Playing this now  (free! courtesy of the 5 years of App Store promotion)  and the most interesting aspect to me is the subtle undercurrent of societal utilitarianism when you get a bunch of clones all flying together.

    You naturally want to help all of the little guys to the safety of the level-end pipe but that’s just not going to happen; too many small gaps, saws and crushy-things in the way. 

    Since every clone has its own altitude level but your touch makes all of them go up and down in unison,  you have to time your presses to do the greatest good, get as many as possible through the next obstacle knowing full well in doing so that you’ll doom the stragglers.   Or in certain cases you have to send some down a dead-end path to hit a switch or something to let the other ones fly on.

    Not that I’m trying to overthink a side-scrolling mobile game or anything.