Players had mixed reactions to the Balan Wonderworld demo. The art style is where it needs to be, but unfortunately, little else matches.
Players just got their first hands-on look at Balan Wonderworld in the form of a demo, and the response has been mixed. While the title’s art style and whimsical nature have captivated some, others find the controls and overall design lacking. With initial reception so polarized, Balan Wonderworld may struggle to gain the desired audience upon release.
Balan Wonderworld is developed by Balan Company and Arzest and published by Square Enix. The title is directed by Yuji Naka and taking art direction from Naoto Ohshima, the creators of Sonic the Hedgehog and Nights into Dreams. Balan Wonderworld is the first project by Balan Company, a newly formed subsidiary of Square Enix.
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After some time with the Balan Wonderland demo, many players and critics voiced disappointment with the title. Some said the title’s controls were lacking, the level design was inconsistent and the game felt overall unfinished. As a 3D action platformer, ensuring players feel the controls are tight, responsive and in-depth enough to traverse the game world could be considered a top priority, alongside creating stages that are fun to play.
In Balan Wonderworld, there are only two input commands aside from moving the character and camera control. There’s an action button to use the ability of whichever costume the character is currently wearing, and another to switch between costumes. There is no dedicated command to jump; instead, jumping is tied to specific costumes found within stages. There’s not even a back button when operating the in-game menu, requiring players to reconfirm options even if nothing has changed.
Many of the costumes available in the Balan Wonderworld demo can feel redundant once a player has acquired a few different options. One costume acquired relatively early in the demo transforms the character into a dragon-themed creature capable of spitting fireballs at enemies. While gaining some range to attack foes is useful, players can no longer jump while wearing this costume and have to go through a far too lengthy costume change animation while they cycle back to another that can.
Most costumes that allow jumping have some built-in attack when the action is performed; it begs the question as to why anyone would use costumes that remove the ability to jump when the ones that can are just as capable of defeating enemies. There are undoubtedly specific stage features that may require a particular costume to overcome, but the whole process feels clunky.
Aside from the way the game controls, players have been quick to call out level design that’s been perceived as shallow or boring. Each stage has some collectibles to find and a few costume-specific puzzles, but that’s about it. The mostly-empty stages add to frustration when considering the backtracking involved to reacquire a particular costume if it’s lost after the character takes damage.
Though Balan Wonderworld is still unreleased, players don’t have the best impression after playing the demo. These concerns may be addressed before the title launches, but these issues also seem to indicate the game’s formula is lacking. Time will tell if Balan Wonderworld‘s simplistic gameplay approach and style over substance will leave players pleased or peeved.
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