When Balan Wonderworld was first announced, I heard people on the internet getting excited about it. But I never looked into it myself. A 3D platformer directed by Yuji Naka? Ehh… I was maybe 50% interested.
Then Nintendo showed some footage in a partner showcase or something, and I was much more intrigued. It looked like a lot of fun, and the colourful, cartoony visual style was a huge seller for me. I started to strongly consider a purchase.
Then Square-Enix released a demo, and I played that demo, and I will probably never play Balan Wonderworld again.
I’m still figuring out the PS5, so this recording lacks any input by me (whether that’s for better or for worse is up to you), but I think it comes across pretty clearly that Balan Wonderworld is not a great game. It has a lot of elements that I find interesting and potentially fun, but enough issues that I’m less willing to give the full game a fair shake.
Issue number one: The physics feel a lot like a 3D Sonic game. Your character is super floaty and too fast, and their animations don’t match their movements, and it just feels terrible. Part of the reason that I dislike 3D Sonic games is because the controls are so damn sloppy. Balan Wonderworld is a much slower game, so it’s less of a problem in terms of gameplay mechanics, but it feels awful and that’s a huge no-no for me. if moving my character isn’t fun on its own, then the whole game is a wash.
The other thing that really bothered me in the demo is the fact that your character cannot do anything except for jump. Literally every button on the controller makes them jump. It’s so weird. Imagine if in Super Mario Odyssey, all Mario could do when not in a capture was a single, normal jump. People would riot.
Eventually you get transformations that give you different abilities, but then all of your buttons do that one ability until you switch to another costume. So if you get a transformation that can shoot fireballs, that’s it. Your jump is gone, and all the buttons shoot fireballs. It’s the strangest mechanical choice I’ve seen in a long, long time.
Now, I get that the point is to find different costumes and then bring them around to different places to overcome obstacles. It’s the same as Kirby. It’s basically a 3D Kirby game. Except Kirby doesn’t lose his ability to jump, fly, run, or slide while he’s got a power. It’s so weird and I don’t like it!
Anyway, I should stop griping about this video game demo. Maybe the full game will be more fulfilling. But probably not. Because it controls like a Sonic game and that’s just butts.
I’m also very disappointed that the PS5 took six hours to upload that 42-minute clip to YouTube. But that’s a whole different kettle of fish.