There is no wonder in this world.
Gamers have been treated to a 3D platformer renaissance over the past few years. The likes of Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time have shown the world that 3D platformers aren’t just a genre of the past, but a formula that can still be iterated upon. Enter Square Enix and legendary game designer Yuji Naka, best known for his work on the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. Together they set out to create a brand new 3D platformer like the world has never seen before. To that extent, they have succeeded, as the mediocrity of Balan Wonderworld stands out as one of the worst and underdeveloped platformers in recent memory.
From start to finish, Balan Wonderworld feels like a fever dream, and not in a good way. Nothing in this world makes sense, there’s no real story, and there’s nothing motivating you to keep going. The game stars Leo and Emma, two kids who feel like social outcasts, as they wander into a theater run by Balan, a mysterious being in a white hat known for his positivity. They are then transported to the Isle of Tims, a hub filled with adorable creatures that connects each of the twelve worlds. Each world is actually a troubled person’s heart, which Leo and Emma need to free from Lance, Balan’s evil counterpart. While the plot attempts some dark tones, there is little actual story outside of the opening and ending cutscenes. There is no dialogue between the inhabitants of this world, no character development, and no raised stakes to keep the player motivated. Brief interactions, such as the musical number at the end of each world attempts to add some personality to the characters, but they end up feeling as soulless as the rest of the game.
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