Last month, a playable demo of Yuji Naka’s next project, Balan Wonderworld, was released to the public across all major platforms. Initially, this thrilled me as not only is this sort of thing uncommon in contemporary times, but it was also a game I’ve been highly interested in since we last reported on it. All should have been well with the (wonder)world, right?
Sadly…my heart sank as I began to play the demo for myself. While the game is aesthetically stunning and has all the charm of a Dreamcast-era platformer, it was evident to me that something went wrong from concept to execution. It would appear that I’m in good company in thinking this.
Character movement speed and an overall lack of engaging/challenging gameplay were my two primary gripes as I took mental notes during my time with the demo. It would appear that many others share the same complaints among others. If you’re as much of an enthusiast for this genre as I am, chances are you’ve played Blinx the Timesweeper. That’s the best way to describe the overall conflict with the character’s movement speed- there’s much ground to cover. Your character trudges along as if he (or she, depending on what gender you pick at the start) is making a trip to the Post Office. “Come the (expletive) on” was something I muttered at the screen quite often.
As for the gameplay, I feel like the primary issue was that there were just so many ideas that went nowhere. The gimmick behind Balan Wonderworld‘s platforming is that the player can take multiple forms through various costumes, much like the Sega Genesis classic Kid Chameleon. However, there isn’t a lot of exciting applications for these numerous costumes. For instance, at a later level, you get an outfit that allows you to lock on to balloons Sonic Adventure style, but that’s all you do with the thing. See balloons? Spam the attack button to climb up a mountainside. There is barely any thinking involved, and it led to an overall sense of boredom.
Fortunately, there is some glimmer of hope. It’s clear Naka and his crew was at least listening to player concerns. A blog post by producer Noriyoshi Fujimoto on Square Enix’s official site delves into some detail regarding what players can expect out the gate.
“Staying true to the nature of BALAN WONDERWORLD, I would like for us to follow in the footsteps of the enigmatic maestro, Balan, and find balance within our own heart.”
“…Specifically, this patch will adjust movement controls, camera movement, and rebalancing of the difficulty.”
While it’s good to hear that our gripes have not fallen upon deaf ears, I believe this is a case where the game needs a delay. I understand that many developers seem to follow the “release now, fix it later” approach in this industry. Balan Wonderworld, to me, needs far more care and attention than that in its current state. I hate to say this, but I don’t think the changes this patch will make will affect the public’s opinion on the game all that much.
Did you play the Balan Wonderworld demo? What were your thoughts? And, more importantly, do you think that this day one patch is enough to save what many are calling Yuji Naka’s “last chance”? Let us know in the comments!