I have to admit I was immediately excited when Frogmind Games first showed us "Badland," and after putting in some time with the developer's "atmospheric side-scrolling action-adventure platformer," I have to say that excitement is still here.
What I love most about "Badland" is its simplicity. In my honest opinion, any game that tries to utilize virtual joysticks or attempts to mimic the physical controls used for console or PC games is missing the point. Touchscreen games need simple touchscreen controls, and it's obvious the team at Frogmind Games knew this as they ventured into the "Badland." Like "Tiny Wings" or "Angry Birds" before it, the only thing you need in order play "Badland" (aside from an iOS device) is one single finger. And that's a good thing.
The level and character design, and the atmosphere they create when combined on screen, are what really make "Badland" an excellent mobile game. In a weird way the overall experience reminds me of "Limbo" if it had taken place in Ferngully. The little flying creature players control is under the constant scrutiny of all manner of odd creatures lurking in the shadows, and you really get a sense that something has gone terribly wrong in this eerie, yet gorgeous forest.
Once you've ventured into the "Badland" you only have one mission – reach the end of the level. To do this you'll tap or hold your finger on the screen, making your character flap its wings (if you want to call them that) and move forward. Along the way you'll face a plethora of deadly obstacles. Whether its falling boulders, giant saw blades or explosive plants, you'll have your work cut out for you. Thankfully, you're not alone, as other flying creatures (clones) will occasionally join you on your journey, each controlled in unison by tapping or holding a finger on the screen.
There are also power-ups spread throughout the world. Some will make you big, some will make you small, some make you sticky and others will make you fast. They really make the gameplay that much more entertaining, as you never really know if the power-up will help you or hurt you. For instance, being small is great, but if you're small enough to squeeze through one area, you may be small enough to stuck in another. Like many side-scrollers, the "camera" moves as your character does. If you stop or get stuck and go off the screen, you're done.
On top completing levels, the game also features Game Center support, which brings leaderboards and achievements into the equation. For instance, losing 100 clones to a circular saw, or saving 100 clones will earn you an achievement.
With 40 levels, and more to come in future updates, single player is sure to keep you entertained. In the event that you want to switch things up, or want to give your friends a turn but just can't let go, "Badland" also features an interesting local multiplayer mode. 2-4 players can gather around a single device and play a sort of last man standing match. Controls work the same way, with each player assigned to a different color critter. The one that makes it to the end of the level first (alive) wins.
At this point I'd usually mention some aspect of the game I don't like. Most of the time it has something to do with relentless requests to spend money on in-app purchases, a ridiculous price tag on the initial download or a horrible control scheme. Thankfully you won't find any of that in "Badland." Instead, the team has decided to skip in-app purchases altogether. That's right, not a single one. That does mean you'll have to pay for the game, but the $3.99 price tag for the universal app is pretty easy to swallow. Especially considering you won't see any ads and Frogmind plans on adding additional levels via future updates.
Overall, "Badland" is one of the best mobile gaming experiences in recent memory. It looks great, it plays great, it sounds great and it keeps things simple. In a strange way it makes you feel for the little critters and clones you control. If you're looking for a captivating and unique indie game to take with you on the go, "Badland" is not one to pass up.