Balan Wonderworld Review (Nintendo Switch)

Published on April 10th, 2021 by Gervais D.

Balan Wonderworld Review (Nintendo Switch)

Balan Worldworld has made people wonder how good of a game it’d be after hitting the eyes and ears of people from around the world. A game presented by the Sonic The Hedgehog creator and Square Enix with stunning character designs easily caught the attention of many. Now that the game is finally available on the Nintendo Switch, let’s see if it lives up to the expectations of many.

Story

Darkness is corrupting the hearts of the Balan Wonderworld’s NPCs and it’s up to you as the protagonist to restore the balance of things. Wonderworld; a place where people’s positive memories mix with their negativity, is where the mysterious clown Balan has sent you to restore the lost balance in the hearts of the people. Not until you’ve done a proper job would you think about seeing the real world ever again.

Balan Wonderworld Artwork
Each area has its own story.

The story is told in cinematic videos throughout each stage. There will be no text or voice acting here (besides some from Balan). If you want to explore more of the lore, you’ll have to purchase a book separately to dive more into the story. It costs $9.99 and can be disheartening to those who feel as though they aren’t getting their $59.99 worth from the base game.

Gameplay

Balan Wonderworld is a simple platformer game that will take you on a ride to clear short stages and collect golden statues in twelve tales. Each tale has its own spectacular dance scene at the end, but that’s all there is to the game. It’s a rinse and repeat sequence in which collecting these golden statues felt like the most crucial part of its gameplay.

Balan Wonderworld Dance Scene
Each area has its own dance scene on completion.

It can still be enjoyable at the end of a stormy day, but it has certainly failed to meet its mark for the hype the Internet has given it, considering the people who were involved in the project. Not only that, but it just doesn’t deliver what an AAA title should have. Slash its price tag by half and maybe it’ll look like a sweeter deal.

Costumes

Costumes mean everything in Balan Wonderworld. They change the power your character is capable of using and sometimes even take away your ability to jump. The lack of jumping can be annoying to some, but it’s understandable why it’s been done for specific costumes. It’s not as annoying as it may sound, as you can simply swap to a different costume to alleviate the issue. In most situations, you’ll rarely lack a costume with the jump ability.

Balan Wonderworld Gameplay
There are many costumes in the game.

The game has a lot of costumes for you to utilize and it’s a straightforward process to interchange between them. You can switch between three costumes at any time; however, you’ll have to find a save point to expand these options to your closet collection. Navigating back to these save points hasn’t been the most pleasing experience when playing this game.

Balan Wonderworld Gameplay
This costume gives off Yooka-Laylee vibes.

With over 80 costumes in the game, the number is certainly commendable. Each area has its own set of costumes to use. You’re not limited to using a specific set of costumes within a certain area, so you’ll be able to carry over your favorites to any level you so desire. It is unfortunate that many of them will go to waste or become obsolete. The game does put these costumes to work, but mostly to reach gold statues spread across each level.

Level Design

Part of what drags Balan Wonderworld down is the progression in the game. It’s easy to get stuck—not because of how tough the enemies are or the challenges you’ll face with the platforming—but because of the irritatingly steep wall the developers have put up to prevent fluid progression. You absolutely must seek out as many gold statues as possible in the limited levels you have access to. Only then would you gain access to an additional set of levels after meeting your quota. It’s not something that’s been unheard of in games, but together with the high number of inaccessible gold statues and the backtracking, it feels as though the intention was to heighten gameplay hours.

View From Above in Balan Wonderworld
One of the gold trophies can be found in the distance.

The levels themselves are short and seem interesting from the first impression, but there’s nothing special about them. It doesn’t take much to defeat the little enemies in the game and there’s no real challenge from the platforming. There is still fun to be had in this game, but only if you enjoy thoroughly searching small areas for specific items and backtracking to acquire the same items you previously couldn’t. Some of these items are hidden well and can be considered as the only challenge to expect in Balan Wonderworld.

Boss Battles

At the end of each area lies a boss awaiting your presence. They’re impressive, to say the least, but the fights may not be too enjoyable with how easy these bosses are to defeat. There’s no thinking or reflexes involved with overcoming these seemingly fearsome foes. Their intimidating designs are purely just for show, as your single action is enough to subdue even the largest of them. There was room for a lot of improvement here with how impressive these boss battles presented themselves.

Boss Battle in Balan Wonderworld
Boss battles are impressive, but only when looking at them.

Mini Games

From time to time, you’ll encounter a special costume or a golden hat in the game. Getting them will prompt you to play a mini-game. They’re different from the typical powerup costumes you’ll usually find from levels. The majority will have you attempt a short round of a sport, and while it can be fun, it can also be a challenge when it comes to perfectly clearing them. Some of the sports to expect are baseball, soccer, and golf.

Golf Mini Game in Balan Wonderworld
One of the mini-games in Balan Wonderworld.

Balan’s Bouts, on the other hand, is a bit different. It’s the same concept throughout, but an interesting idea nonetheless. There’s at least one gold hat in each level, and perfectly clearing it rewards you with an additional gold statue. Don’t jump for joy too soon; unlike the platforming levels, this mini-game is no walk in the park. It takes a lot of practice and gets tougher the further you progress in the game. One silly mistake and you’ll be stuck with a gem multiplier. Although the animations are sometimes copied and pasted, they don’t often feel the same.

The Isle of Tims

When you’re not searching for gold statues in levels or fighting enemies, you’ll be spending most of your time at your base. The gems you collect will be used as food for these little Tim creatures. It’s nice to sit back and feed these little guys every once in a while; some even grow and lay eggs. There isn’t much purpose to this additional world but it does come with its own objective that relies mostly on time. It’s not something a lot of people may care about, but it’s nice having the option to pick up these creatures and feed them every once in a while.

Graphics and Performance

Breathtaking cinematic cutscenes, wonderful character designs, and a beautiful world are what to expect in Balan Wonderworld. Unfortunately, the character models could have used a touch of work. The lack of anti-aliasing brings out the low-quality rough white edges surrounding the character models. Not only that, but the game also takes a hit when it comes to performance—at least on the Nintendo Switch. Frequent framerate drops and graphical glitches await you while you unravel the curtain and proceed with the gameplay. Although the constant framerate drops are annoying, it doesn’t drastically affect the gameplay.

Cutscene in Balan Wonderworld
The cinematic cutscenes is one of the best parts of this game.

Soundtrack

One of the game’s strong points is undoubtfully its soundtrack. Square Enix’s Ryo Yamazaki, who has worked on games like Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy, did not fail to meet expectations with the delightful tunes presented in this game. Even with the lack of dialogue, the game’s music has still brought life into its cinematic scenes.

Conclusion

Balan Wonderworld had every potential to be something greater than what it is today, but its underlying issues are too difficult to look the other way. Its levels are being irritatingly gatekept. Backtracking to alienate players into becoming partial completionists to mask its short, easy levels isn’t a great idea in this day and age, either. Despite its many issues, its magnificent cutscenes and spectacular music do raise it above the water. There is still some fun to be had with the levels in this game, but it’s aimed more at people who want simple one-button mashing gameplay and the focus of actively seeking out every item they can possibly get their hands on.

Balan Wonderworld gets a 5/10.

Gervais D.

About Gervais D.

Gervais laughs at a difficult RPG while it takes its last breath as he conquers it. He's been gaming since the NES and loves to relax at the beach.