When folks convey up Yuji Naka, they emphasize the good video games he’s made. This implies fondly remembering titles like Sakura Wars: So Lengthy, My Love, Billy Hatcher, and NiGHTs into Goals. (Hopefully, Monster Manor and Final Angler get nods too.) However folks are inclined to overlook in regards to the “misses” like Rodea the Sky Soldier and Ivy the Kiwi? Which is a disgrace, as a result of then folks may need had a greater thought of what was coming with Balan Wonderworld, a bland and confounding recreation with lacking items and dangerous design choices.
As a result of a lot is lacking, you solely have the vaguest thought of what’s taking place in Balan Wonderworld. Your story begins with considered one of two youngsters who may be very unhappy. You don’t know precisely why, precisely, as a result of Balan is the one “particular person” who speaks. Within the case of Emma, my avatar, she runs out of a mansion unhappy as a result of the maids are taking a look at her and whispering. She finds herself at Balan’s theater and learns her personal coronary heart could be repaired if she aids others. She finds herself within the colourful Wonderworld, the place 12 folks in despair are trapped in 12 worlds. You restore them by donning costumes with particular talents and gathering sufficient Balan statues to unlock the subsequent group of worlds.
The overall premise doesn’t sound dangerous. If higher executed, it may have been high-quality. The animated cutscenes in the beginning and finish of a world do an amazing job of reaching out to a participant’s coronary heart and galvanizing sympathy for the folks troubled and led into despair by the villain, Lance. Soshi Kawasaki’s Balan Wonderworld: Maestro of Thriller, Theatre of Wonders is much extra elaborate and stuffed with insights. This might have been an amazing film, maybe with just a few of the extra fascinating tales plucked for an abbreviated adaptation. (The farmer, firefighter, and lady with a kitten can be good candidates.) It may need been an amazing TV present too! However the recreation condenses issues a lot that you simply barely get any rationalization or motivation on your actions.
Which contributes to a common sense of blandness. Whereas character designs can typically be nice and people transient vignettes enjoyable, there’s nothing thrilling about any of the degrees. I felt as if I used to be strolling (quite effortlessly) by each. I solely returned once I needed to within the title of extra Balan statues to advance. Typically regrettably, as worlds with floor that swells and odd digicam angles or actions may make me really feel a little bit queasy. If somebody requested me in regards to the phases, I may actually say, “Nicely, there was a farm one, an underwater one, a forest one, a metropolis one…” and so forth. However I couldn’t actually level to any defining artifacts about what made them particular.
This is applicable to the costumes too. Balan Worldworld has a whopping 80 costumes to accumulate. Besides it suffers from a scenario the place you don’t want 80 when you have a fraction that work nicely. Particularly since many costumes supply the identical talents as others, solely higher. So say Leaping Jack can leap and has one thing of a Yoshi flutter leap. Nicely, Pounding Pig additionally jumps and might flutter a bit, nevertheless it additionally floor kilos. Which one are you going to decide on? Hm? Dynamic Dolphin and Jellyjolt each can swim by water blocks to succeed in new areas and leap, however Jellyjolt’s leap is galvanized and higher for additionally coping with enemies. Selections, choices! It’s particularly worse since each of these examples contain outfits present in the identical worlds.
However these aren’t the one frustrations tied to outfits. Some really feel ineffective. Pretty Lantern lights up when it feels prefer it in your rapid space. However Balan Wonderworld actually by no means feels darkish sufficient to wish it. It’s not the one when it feels prefer it costume, although it isn’t as offensive because the Field Fox that turns right into a field together with your motion momentum and typically may ship you careening off the world map. All costumes are locked by “keys,” so you’ll be able to’t simply seize one and swap. Besides the keys are usually very shut by. Which makes that appear pointless. Particularly in a boss struggle if you’re transferring shortly and tactically.
However wait, there’s extra! You at all times solely have one motion accessible, which suggests carrying sure costumes robs you of the flexibility to leap. Oh, and you’ll solely have three costumes without delay and the one within the right-most slot shall be ditched if you happen to seize a brand new one, so be sure you have your least favourite or helpful one in that slot if you happen to seize a brand new one. Which wouldn’t be as dangerous if the costumes in cubes have been simpler to establish, however I performed on the Change and it was typically tough to see what was inside till I grabbed it.
It isn’t just a few costumes that may really feel nugatory. The Tims, bird-like blobs that observe gamers round, typically appear a bit ineffective too. Sure, if some are round if you’re in a stage, they may do issues for you relying on their coloration. (Typically, one would carry a fancy dress key over to me or assault an enemy.) I hoped they’d be a Chao Backyard-like characteristic. As an alternative, they’re rudimentary, and I usually forgot they have been even there in the event that they weren’t bringing me a key. I didn’t join with them in the best way I did different mascots.
Balan Wonderworld is just not comfy or enjoyable to play. It isn’t memorable. If you wish to perceive every little thing taking place, you must purchase the e book and go to that exterior supply for a proof. It’s bland, repetitious, and has design decisions which can be the other of guaranteeing a very good high quality of life. It’s a clear instance of a scenario the place you need to learn the e book, quite than play the sport. There are occasions when it looks like a fever dream, one thing too bizarre to truly be true, because it fades out of your thoughts. However then you definitely have a look at that icon in your system’s Dwelling menu and comprehend it actually occurred.
Sq. Enix‘s Balan Wonderworld is on the market for the Nintendo Change, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Collection X, and PC. The Balan Wonderworld: Maestro of Thriller e book is on the market.