If you experienced the original Badland, you’ll know the words ‘bad’ and ‘land’ don’t really convey what the flappy winged protagonist went through.
It was like Limbo in fast-forward — a hell for woodland creatures who’ve led a terrible life, repeatedly forcing them through deadly traps, until realising the evil of their flappy ways.
If this is the case, the winged creature in Badland 2 must have been very bad indeed. It belongs to a world that's far more savage and dangerous than anything that featured in the first Badland — and you’re lobbed in at the deep end to try and guide it through to survival.
At first, you might not notice the subtle — and not-so-subtle — shifts from the original title. In fact, uncharitable players might dismiss Badland 2 as ‘more of the same’.
Visually, it’s again all silhouette forms atop vibrant, gorgeous, otherworldly backdrops. You get ‘flappy’ controls, only instead of prodding the screen to make the creature beat its wings, you now press left or right to move in that direction, or both sides of the screen to head upwards.
You’re still trying to pick your way past all manner of creature-killing environmental hazards, striving to reach the suction pipe at the level’s conclusion that provides temporary solace before spitting you out somewhere that’s even more hostile.
And there are familiar pick-ups, enabling you to clone the creature, shrink and grow, speed everything up to breakneck pace, or pretend you’re in a surreal drug-induced version of the Matrix by temporarily slowing everything to a snail’s pace.
Trial and error a plenty
But this is a much more expansive and creative game than Badland. Levels scroll in all directions, dramatically changing how you approach them and what they can do. It at times feels more like an out-of-control Sonic than comparatively pedestrian horizontal auto-scrollers.
Puzzles are more frequent, considered and imaginative, and there’s some smart pacing, certain challenges being decidedly epic in nature, but other levels being presented as insanely fast sprints.
Badland 2 unfortunately doesn’t get away from the single major failing of its predecessor: being wedded to the Rick Dangerous school of game design. It very much remains a trial-and-error affair, habitually killing you in unavoidable ways. And even though regular checkpoints are peppered about every level, enabling you to replay sections until you crack them, there will still be occasions where you get stuck.
You’ll fume at a section that demands the utmost precision when the controls are a bit too fuzzy, or boasts an oblique solution that you’re more likely to chance on than figure out in a logical manner.
Laugh and feel bad about it
When you do beat a particularly tough bit — by way of cunning gaming skills or sheer luck — you feel like a champ. And you’ll recognise that mastery of the controls and insight into the presumably warped minds of the game’s creators will get you a long way.
One great example occurs part-way through the ‘frozen’ world, where you find a switch that’s impossible to get to. We're not going to reveal exactly what the solution is, only that a) it is definitely doable and b) finding it will require a little masochism.
That sense of inventiveness and black humour, coupled with a distinctly alien mood throughout the entire game, makes up for much of the frustration you’ll feel after watching a dozen clones meet their ends at sawblades for the umpteenth time as you try to find a way past.
Badland 2 is available for iOS from the App Store. An Android port is coming soon.