"Okay, this is my theory on this game: started off as an actual video game, then they realized that they wouldn't have enough time to actually make it good, so the developers started trolling each other and putting in these shitty power-ups, and then it just became a contest of who could make the shittiest power-up imaginable, and now this is the final product."— videogamedunkey
"YOU'RE WINNER !" — Victory screen from Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing
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"🎵Don't play Balan Wonderworld!🎵
🎵There's nothing here but Misery!🎵
🎵This game’s not worth sixty!🎵
🎵Nights is 7.99!🎵
🎵The Switch version is broken!🎵
🎵This game gave people seizures!🎵
🎵I wasted my time with this game,🎵
so you should not do the same!🎵
🎵Seriously, what was Yuji Naka thinking?🎵
🎵He has many good concepts,🎵
But he didn’t,🎵
🎵Balan Wonderworld should have been called Balan Wonderland because it’s a better name!!!🎵
🎵Also don’t buy it!🎵
"— Sam Procrastinates
"Oh my gosh, this is easily one of the worst games I have ever played in my entire life, it is just such a complete mess from start to finish, I actually paid $60 for this worthless piece of garbage."— DreamcastGuy
Balan Wonderworld (バランワンダーワールド, Baran Wandāwārudo) is a platform video game released on March 26, 2021 for Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. It was co-developed by Arzest and Balan Company, and published by Square Enix. The game was directed by Yuji Naka, the co-creator of the Sonic the Hedgehog and Nights series, and this game was heavily inspired by the latter.
Why It's Not of Wonders
- Outdated mechanics and gameplay: The most fundamental problem is that the game itself feels incredibly dated, which is unacceptable for 2021 standards. The game mechanically and in terms of playability and other problems from which it suffers, is reminiscent of a game from the late 1990s, more specifically the era of early platformers from the era of the first PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64 or Dreamcast games, only with partially modern graphics.
- While it may be colorful, its overall graphic artistry is outdated. Despite running on Unreal Engine 4, it is more reminiscent of a budget game from the Xbox 360 era, and you can see it at every step. The game features many low-quality textures that look mostly from an early 2000s game, and at worst from the Nintendo 64 era, the character models are stiff, lifeless, and reminiscent of Chinese bootleg dolls, and there are some poorly-done objects like mirrors and many objects dedicated to any Chapter. However, the ugliest element of the game is certainly the natural elements, such as the ground, grass, and plants. At times, pixels are visible, especially in the previously mentioned character models.
- The Nintendo Switch version is made for the least resistant line. It suffers from many aspects worse than the average Switch port, making it the worst option to play. However, it's not an Ark: Survival Evolved level of porting awfulness or even Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night for that matter, but the port still certainly looks and plays terribly.
- Due to Square Enix's unwillingness to delay development of the game, the game was released in an unacceptable condition, bearing in mind that the game lacked polish and the developers took strange design decisions that resulted in a worse experience and a great feeling of junk.
- It suffers from some technical issues, mainly graphical ones.
- The controls are not only poorly implemented, but also incredibly limited. As befits a platformer, the controls include not only controlling the main character by jumping and running, but also doing whatever action. However, in this game, when you don't have the costumes that the game tells you to get, as regular Leo or Emma you can't do anything except jumping and running.
- This is one of the few platformers that forces you to grind with your costumes. If you want to collect as many Drops and Balan Statues as possible, you are forced to unlock all the costumes from later Chapters that perform the given action, which is absolutely necessary if you want to collect all of them for 100% completion. For example, in Chapter One, specifically in Act One titled The Man Who Rages Against the Storm, you will encounter a spider web that has several Drops at its disposal, then you'll need to use the spider costume (even worse, if you don't have it, you'll have to go all the way back to the levels it's in).
- False advertising and misleading appear both inside and outside the game:
- Square Enix and Nintendo provide trailers from the game, which are dedicated to the Nintendo Switch version, where the gameplay is actually from other versions, because the Switch version differs in the quality of graphics and stability, making Switch owners feel cheated. Additionally, on the Nintendo e-Shop digital platform, there are only three screenshots that come from the cutscenes, showing nothing at all related to the gameplay.
- There's no plot at all at least, not in the game itself. It was discovered that this game does have a backstory as to what's happening but you have to buy the book, , to even know what's happening, which is ridiculous. What's worse is that you have to pay an extra $10 just to know what's happening in a game, which was $60 upon release.
- The costumes, the main indicator of this game, is a complete disappointment in several respects, mainly because of how they have limited actions combined with the strange direction of the game controls, but also there are many useless and unnecessary costumes. There are those who have one duplicated action. The most pointless costumes are the ones that won't even let you jump, in a platforming game, where jumping is a common action.
- The level design is shabby, boring, seems unfinished, and at worst looks like it was designed by a college student in two weeks. The levels are short, there are too few details, they do not pose any challenge to traversing the platform elements, which are not so much here for the standards of this genre. The worst offender is Chapter One, which is so monstrously blandly designed that it literally looks like if it was designed in less than one month.
- The game may be easy, but to some extent, it causes artificial difficulty.
- The mini-games are boring and repetitive. Overall, they feel like they've been put in just to keep you from experiencing the platforming levels themselves, which aren't fun on their own.
- Collecting Drops is completely irrelevant as they do not affect the gameplay at all. It's practically useful only in the situation of feeding the Tims, which are used to build structures with the help of the windmill on which they crawl. These structures themselves only exist as decorations and other things from the Isle of Tims are simply pointless.
- Tims are poorly executed in the levels you are heading for in a given Chapter. On the one hand, they find a few Drops or eggs, but on the other, they are extremely weak when it comes to combat, because they cannot defeat the enemies, but only touch them. Besides, Tims are very often eaten by a live aggressive plant, falling into it without making any effort to free themselves from it, only you must defeat a plant to rescue Tims. They apparently are designed for a farm, which itself is redundant, as mentioned earlier.
- The bosses are stupidly weak, as they only take three hits to defeat. The final boss takes three hits too. So you will have a short battle during his two phases and you can do the trick of being invincible by changing costumes to easily dodge the attacks of several of these enemies that while creative in design and attacks and atmosphere and also interesting, are disappointing and flawed in their execution.
- The number of levels is pathetically small, especially compared to many modern platformers like Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time. That game had 100 levels, while Balan Wonderworld in every Chapter has two platform levels, and a boss, having a total of 37 levels if you count all 24 platform levels and 13 bosses. All this means that you will complete the game in less than 10 hours, which is a result shorter than in the previously discussed game.
- The game, although it is aimed at children from different worlds, offering many languages to choose from, the voices are only done in the game's own language, which is known as "Balanese", uses English words pronounced backwards and some Japanese words too. The average player wouldn't mind at all for role-playing games, but in platform games, it is pointless and only makes it that children are forced to read dialogues in a language that's made up. It is worth recalling that there are several Japanese companies that release platformers with English voices from under their hands, which has always been a staple in Sega and Nintendo games.
- The game was extremely overpriced on the release, as it used to cost a whopping $60, but this price is not in line with the quality of the game that was treated by the producers. It currently costs $40, but still not worth that much money. The most adequate price for this game should be $10 or less, which is surprisingly what a lot of new copies are going for at the moment given the atrocious sales of the game.
- Absolutely terrible release: The game was released at an inopportune time, especially since on the same day two large gaming companies also released their one game, including Capcom and their Monster Hunter Rise, and Electronic Arts released It Takes Two, and both games were critically acclaimed and sold fantastically, while this game definitely didn't stand a chance due to the demo disclosure which completely killed all hope of the game, especially since Square Enix didn't even delay the game and many people could expect a game that was doomed to start from the outset.
- Although the soundtrack is generally good, it does not shine with originality, and even the game commits plagiarism. Some songs are counterfeit from other series.
- The game's cinematics are absolutely gorgeous, incredible, and surprisingly good. They are so wonderful that they almost resemble a movie by Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Don Bluth, 20th Century Fox Animation, Blue Sky Studios or DreamWorks Animation. The reason for this is because Square Enix's subsidiary Visual Works was responsible for the cinematics. They have worked with them to create rendered cutscenes for their games in the past. There is a certain chance that a lot more budget was allocated here than for the game itself.
- The soundtrack is wonderful (it lives up to the title of the game), especially the songs , , and , which are both enjoyable to listen to, but also relevant to the vibe. The best songs you can hear in its cutscenes, both pre-rendered and created on the game engine.
- The character designs are very nice and creative, especially Balan who has a hat with vivid eyes attached to them, as is the case with many costumes who can look adorable on one side, and crazy on the other. All this shows that this easily noticeable style of characters must have been done by Naoto Ohshima, as already proved in the case of Sonic the Hedgehog and Dr. Eggman, despite the outdated graphics.
- At least with the Bosses, (while bad in execution) they're creative with cute designs at best. You can also defeat them in several ways, with the best being the final boss. The fights themselves are quite interesting, because they don't do the same thing over and over again, but sometimes they try to attack in a few other ways like you defeat them. Despite this, they are flawed, as discussed in WIS #17.
- Some costumes are actually good, especially the ones that have useful actions and allow you to jump. There are many helpful costumes that affect the completion of the game, especially the Gear Prince (a costume that you use to interact with gearboxes to move platforms towards you), Tornado Wolf (a costume the can spin into a tornado when it jumps to attack enemies that is reminiscent of Taz the Tasmanian Devil), Pounding Pig (a pig costume that you use to ground pound that is reminiscent of Mighty the Armadillo), and even some of the useless ones dedicated to any Chapter.
Balan Wonderworld was met with mostly negative reception from critics and users alike. The game has been widely criticized for its level design, technical issues, design choices, controls, costumes, and performance, while the soundtrack, character design, and cutscenes were largely praised.
Unlike Sonic 06 and Shadow the Hedgehog, which were commercially successful despite the negative reviews, Balan Wonderworld was a commercial failure, selling a very meager 2100 copies in its opening week in Japan.
According to Metacritic, the game received "generally unfavourable reviews" on most of platforms, and "mixed or average reviews" on the PlayStation 5 version. Moreover, it has been accused on Metacritic that positive user reviews consist of bots, featuring similar writing style, and randomly generated usernames that look similar, and they have reviewed only one game on their accounts, which is Balan Wonderworld.
On OpenCritic, the game received a rating of "Weak", an average score of 49/100 and a 10% critics recommend, based on 69 reviews.
- The Drops collecting sound effect was inspired by the game called Nights into Dreams, another video game in which Yuji Naka was involved.
- Yuji Naka hoped that the game would spawn a new long-running 3D platforming franchise centered on the Balan character, but publisher Square Enix has only given him one chance to develop a platform game that will depend on sales and critical reception. With reception and sales below expectations, there will certainly never be a sequel, and the Balan Company brand has been quietly discontinued. He also left Square Enix after the game's release, making it the first and only collaboration between him and Square Enix. It was later revealed by Naka himself that he was fired from the company long before the game's release, leading him to file a lawsuit against them.