Balan Wonderworld woke up a sense I haven’t skilled since 2019, once I noticed director Tom Hooper’s adaptation of the musical Cats in a movie show.
The identical sense of confusion and awe at witnessing Judi Dench and Idris Elba in singing cat type is evoked by Balan Wonderworld. I sat shocked after watching an in-game musical quantity starring my participant character and a corn farmer, who had simply minutes earlier than been reworked into an enormous clownish canine by an evil wizard. I beat him again into human type with a pair punches to the paw and a blast to the derrière, and we celebrated with track and dance. Balan Wonderworld had already featured loads of ambient dancing, however this spectacle was on a wholly new stage.
I noticed Cats on a lark out of morbid curiosity, and nonetheless have conflicted emotions about the entire jellicle expertise. However I’m glad to have identified such weirdness. The identical holds true for my time with Balan Wonderworld’s new playable demo, which arrives Thursday, Jan. 28 on Nintendo Swap, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Home windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Sequence X. (The complete recreation drops in March.)
Balan Wonderworld is a brand new challenge from recreation director Yuji Naka and artist Naoto Ohshima, and it harkens again to that duo’s early inventive works at Sega. The 3D action-platformer’s recreation world is wealthy with the grassy greens and energizing blue skies of a 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog recreation. Its characters really feel ripped from a Nights into Goals sequel — notably the eponymous Balan, a flamboyant showman who pulls a younger man and lady into a colourful fantasyland.
The sport’s demo stretches throughout three worlds and one boss battle. In every world, gamers can entry a wide range of costumes to realize new talents. The preliminary stage options outfits just like the Twister Wolf, which supplies the participant a spin leap; Leaping Jack, a kangaroo ’match which presents a protracted leap; and Elastiplant, which lets the participant stretch to new heights. Later ranges embrace a sheep costume that lets gamers float and a gear-shaped skirt that’s used to govern a clockwork world. Writer Sq. Enix says we will count on 80 costumes within the full recreation; the demo contains at the very least 10.
With its dozens of costumes, Balan Wonderworld feels broad however shallow. The participant’s fundamental capability is to leap, and lots of the costumes provide variations on that leap. Different getups, like a fire-breathing dragon outfit, don’t really feel notably helpful since enemies are simple to dispatch via different means — leaping on their heads whereas sporting nearly some other costume, for instance. The costume-based gameplay provides little pleasure or shock to in any other case simplistic 3D platform-jumping.
The place Balan Wonderworld’s costume-switching gameplay might shine is in its native cooperative mode. Two gamers can mix their outfit’s skills to succeed in locations within the recreation world that may in any other case be inaccessible to a single participant, Sq. Enix says. It’s a function I wasn’t capable of take a look at by myself, however feels very best for a parent-and-child duo. (Balan Wonderworld will not be notably tough, as trendy 3D platformers go.)
There’s extra to find within the recreation’s demo, together with well-hidden collectible statues and a hub world generally known as the Isle of Tims. Right here, gamers can each evolve the colourful fuzzy creatures generally known as Tims — there are vibes of Chao Gardens of some Sonic video games right here — and assemble a fantastical construction.
Gamers can even sometimes take management of Balan himself in the event that they discover golden prime hats, and these sections are simply as unusual and skinny as the remainder of the sport. Balan Bouts, as they’re referred to as, include timing-based minigames as Balan soars via the air. Balan Bouts reward the participant with gems referred to as Drops, that are additionally collected elsewhere within the recreation, however the true motive for the minigames’ existence appears to be a success of nostalgia for Nights into Goals’ flying ranges.
With Balan Wonderworld’s launch simply two months away, I’m uncertain that my reservations about its gameplay veneer will change a lot. However the recreation’s quirky, Cats-flashback-inspiring musical moments may have a robust sufficient gravitational pull to lure me in for an additional look, simply to see how bizarre Naka and Ohshima get.