Communicating the contradiction is a bit silly. The general doxa falling arms shortened on this Balan Wonderworld, I was interested in this game, which without all its controversy would have passed completely under my nose. So I started the demo to see what this popular title looks like.
The game system is similar to Nintendo64 platform titles like Mario64, Banjo & Kazooie and others. Levels that must be visited in order to find objects (statues here) which, after reaching a certain amount, unlock the following levels.
My complete game session on the Balan Wonderworld PS4 demo.
– – Adorable graphic style and very cardboard character design, which I really like despite some more problematic artistic choices (the character ‘boy’ I thought was a girl …).
– – Perfectly calibrated atmosphere for a young audience. Very colorful and many. We can very easily distinguish between friends and enemies, the different levels. However, be careful of some very sneaky tricks.
– – Exploration is encouraged and always rewarded. Lots of items to collect in every corner. Don’t hesitate to search everywhere you can.
– – Balan is a very bizarre site that can wonder or worry at the same time. An unlikely mix between a cabaret dancer and Willy Wonka. The character creates a very dreamy atmosphere full of crazy magic.
– – A simple but effective “scenario”. A villain who symbolizes evidence and defeatism, and a young hero (or hero) who brings back courage and self-sacrifice. With the public lively, there is no need to do more.
– – Very heavy and very slow character. Amazing animation that sees him walking while moving at the speed of a snail. It just has one basic movement:: leap.
– – We quickly acquire a whole range of costumes with their own skills. But sometimes more disabling than anything … for example, the costume, which allows you to strike from a distance, which comes in handy against opponents, doesn’t allow you to jump. So you have to juggle the different outfits all the time … and be careful not to lose them. Because as soon as you are touched, you lose your current outfit, which, however, can be necessary to advance in the level. Either we turn back to restore the outfit, or we take care of the capacities of others who are available to us. We can manage, but we have a lot to steal. However, we firmly believe that this system must quickly reach its limits in the long term. I don’t dare imagine the final levels where I think you have to change your outfit every second … A nightmare in perspective.
A part: the costumes.
To access the costumes contained in items, you must first have a key. We can collect the keys and have as many costumes as there are keys in our inventory. However, be sure to diversify your outfits as much as possible, as collecting 4 or 5 times can be completely useless for advancing. There is no such thing as a “perfect” outfit that stands out from the rest. All have a specific use (more or less)
– – Although the game is very pleasing to the eye, there is one very major technical limitation. The backdrop, rising like a wave, makes for a bizarre feeling. While it has a visual feel very close to Spyro’s remakes (for comparison only), we’re very far from it on many points.
– – The game is sorely lacking in explanations. We don’t really know what the goal is other than to collect as many collectibles as possible. What are the hairballs that follow us everywhere? I did not understand it. It’s supposed to be a chaos-like breeding system in Sonic Adventure. Absolutely nothing makes it explicit. Note that the full game may be more explanatory on all of these points. But in the state in the demo, this record.
– – Something I absolutely didn’t understand, the fact that the unplayable characters disappear when you get close to them. Is it just in the demo? Is there a reason for that? A technical weakness? In addition, they all perform more or less inspired dances, who knows for what reasons. Dancing is generally very present in the Balan Wonderworld, which in itself is not a fault, but for me it doesn’t appeal to me at all.
– – To sum up my impressions, it doesn’t look like a “professional” game, it looks like a damn well-done amateur project taken from Project Sparks, the level creation software released by Microsoft. An amateur thing that would have ended. When we look at it for that, it’s a crowning glory … but given the team’s reputation, we think it’s more of a nudge.
Did the demo convince me to see more?
No. But I only went through this out of desire – maybe unhealthy? – to see a little of what’s behind this bad buzz. That type of title doesn’t appeal to me either, and this brief experience was more than enough to satisfy my curiosity.