It's been several months since Square Enix revealed his to the world Balan wonderworld, new IP developed by the minds of Yuji Naka e Naoto Ohshima. We are talking about big names, developers behind products such as Sonic Adventure and Nights into Dreams who have joined forces after over twenty years, bringing a platform 3D which promises to be full of charisma and personality also thanks to the soundtrack composed by Ryo Yamazaki. We at Resources4Gaming we had the opportunity to preview the product demo, which has been publicly available since January 28 2021 on all major platforms currently on the market, and now we're ready to give you our first impressions about it.
A journey to find the missing piece
As soon as our game starts, the demo asks us which of the two protagonists we want to play, that is the little boy Leo Craig or the sweet Emma Cole. Interestingly, it is possible to decide between some variants of the two characters, although in fact there is no real difference in-game, except in the CGI cutscenes where we will be able to see the variant we have selected. This unfortunately decreases the possibility of a complete customization of one's digital alter-ego, but it is possible that when the final release is reached there will be more variants than those presented here. In any case, after making our choice, we will find ourselves in front of the opening movie, which proves to be well animated and bursting with artistic charisma from every pixel. Balan's character strikes from his first shot, also thanks to an invented language that is really nice to hear in the ear. Fortunately, we terrestrial ordinary will be able to understand everything thanks to the convenient subtitles available in different languages.
We do not want to dwell much on the narrative itself of the work, preferring to analyze it more carefully in another location. What we are most interested in observing concerns theactual goodness that these four levels of Balan Wonderworld offer the gamer. Let's start immediately from the graphic aspect that, despite a refined artistic style, fails to exploit the potential offered by theU. The environments prove to be colorful and pleasing to the eye, but far removed from the graphic detail that is shown to us in some specific moments, as in the aforementioned videos. The models of the main characters, however, are detailed to the right point, although in any case we often notice animations that are not exactly perfect. However, we must praise the performance, at least in the PlayStation 4 edition we tested, with an experience that turned out to be fluid and without any slowdowns whatsoever. In our game we did not notice any kind of bug or glitch, which demonstrates even more the general solidity of the work.
A thousand transformations for a thousand adventures
The gameplay is still the beating heart of Balan Wonderworld, which has already proved quite solid in this test edition. As soon as you can put your hand to the controller you are immediately in the hub world, a place apparently empty at first but which will gradually expand with doors and new features. Here it is immediately possible to notice a particular choice in the control of our hero, namely that the classic action keys all perform the same function; in fact, when we find ourselves "naked", we can only jump. Fortunately, once you enter the first available level, the first is easily found Costumes, called Ululinello, which seems heavily inspired by that Tasmanian devil of the Looney Tunes world. This will turn out to be one of the main gimmicks of the product, since only in the course of this small test we could still wear a large amount of costumes. The particular thing is that each of them offers unique features that we will have to exploit to overcome obstacles or collect the so-called stars of this game, or golden trophies with the shape of Balan. This feature can be frustrating, especially since the player is able to carry only three costumes at a time, an aspect that requires a heartfelt backtracking. Fortunately, there are some comforts fitting rooms in each level where it is possible to select one of the costumes that we have unlocked in the course of our game.
However, each level is full of things to do, so as to entice you to explore every single corner to discover every secret. Some of the hidden activities are for example the football minigame or the battles of Balan, gods quick time event where precision and perfect eyesight are required. All these secondary tasks are used to unlock particular crystals, available in different colors and even collectible around the game maps. To tell the truth, we have not yet fully understood the usefulness of these objects in the ecosystem of the product. The only thing we know is the possibility of offering these crystals as food to small creatures called Tims. At this time it is not possible to verify precisely what actually changes in terms of gameplay, but if used well this characteristics could prove to be very interesting. Returning instead to the speech of level design, the four levels proposed here turn out to be simple to finish but complex to complete. The game is based on a goal whose achievement appears simple enough to be achieved by anyone, but at the same time puts on the plate countless "trophies of Balan" that to be collected will often require great attention and skill, controller in hand. However, we must be careful not to get hit by enemies or to the platform phases where you can fall into the void, since the player will lose the costume he will be wearing at that nefarious moment. Fortunately, picking them up again is not complicated, not to mention the total absence of a screw system.
To conclude, in addition to the four levels mentioned above, we cannot fail to analyze the only boss battle featured in this Balan Wonderworld demo. Apparently the very first fight of the complete edition, this clash turns out to be anything but striking given the predictable and easy to dodge pattern. Obviously this is not determined for all the colossal clashes that we will see in the full game, but this first contact has left us somewhat cold, at least in that sense. As for the common enemies, these are instead easily avoidable and dealt with. In this case it is still possible to close an eye, since the focus of the experience is on exploration and not on hand-to-hand combat.
Dreams that come true
Balan Wonderworld looks like a product full of inventiveness and style, which absolutely does not want to revolutionize the market but to offer a solid experience for the younger generations and platformers. Of course, we still have to thoroughly analyze several elements such as the local co-op for two players, but already from here it is possible to notice the commitment in wanting to create a work that can really fill the hearts of gamers. Unfortunately it was possible to notice problems in some fundamental aspects, which we hope will be resolved in the best possible way before the actual release date scheduled for the March 26. Maybe we are not in front of a perfect work, but it is certainly possible to feel the passion and the desire to bring joy to children and grown-ups from all over the world.