By Diana "DumeeGamer" Dumee on April 1, 2021
Balan Wonderworld is one of the games that I was really looking forward to this year. The colorful world, the over the top soundtrack, the whimsical characters, I love it all. I played the demo a few weeks ago and was really convinced that it would be an adventure of a lifetime. Now I have the full game ready to go on my PS5, so without a no further ado, let's take a dive into this wondrous world of Balan!
You start by selecting a character. You can choose to take the role of either a boy (Leo Craig) or a girl (Emma Cole), each of which have four distinctive character models to choose from. I started the adventure as the red headed version of the girl, upon which I found myself in a sort of boarding school. There I see the other girls in school talking behind my back. I love how the main character first is a bit sad about this fact, but then walks out of the boarding school with her head held up high. You go girl! As she walks down the street you soon meet the very remarkable character that we all know by now as Balan (If you have seen trailers or played the demo of course). He's dressed in a bright white 70's disco suit and wears his hat over his head. Now you might just think that this hat makes it complicated to see, but this is a special hat, ladies and gentlemen! There are holes for the eyes, so Balan can see through.
As you meet Balan, he will sing about how you have lost your courage, your heart, but he knows a way for you to get it back. The way to do this of course is to accompany him on a trip to Wonderworld. I think this Wonderworld itself is best described as Viva Pinata meets Alice in Wonderland. It's a colorful world which will amaze you in so many ways. The basis of floating islands filled with flowers in little springs and the very cute chick-like creatures called Tims. These Tims come in various colors and you can even pick them up and cuddle with them. During your adventures you will collect gem-like items, called Drops, which can also be fed to the Tims, so they will grow bigger. The bigger Tims can lay eggs, which will result in more Tims. And you need all the Tims you can get, because only a certain amount of Tims will unlock the next part of buildings you can build in your base. At this moment I'm building a Tim Tower, a Clock of Happiness and Tim Trampolines!
Your base will also expand with new worlds you can visit. You start out your adventure with three world and by collecting Balan Statues you will fill up a train meter. These elusive statues can be found throughout all the worlds you visit. When the train meter is full, a cutscene about a train will start and portals to new worlds will be added to your base. The very first world that unlocks is The Farm, and it is here that you will learn about the basics of the game. Your main character can walk around, but jumping for example is not part of your standard movements. You can however find outfits throughout the worlds, which will grant you with special abilities. The first outfit you are likely to find is a wolf, which makes you stronger so you can break through certain objects and you gain the ability to jump while wearing this outfit.
There are many different outfits throughout all the worlds for you to find. In total, the game features 80 different types of these lovely-looking and, of course, helpful items. All of these costumes provide you with different abilities, so it's wise to add them to your ever-expanding wardrobe. Up to three outfits can be saved in your inventory at any given time. If you find a fourth one, it is good to realize that if you pick up it up, it will replace one of the other outfits already in your inventory (first in, first out). But don't worry, you will not lose it; the outfit you swapped will be safely stored in the changing room. You can visit the changing room at checkpoints during the levels and change your outfits. Another thing to keep in mind is that changing into another outfit will trigger a short animation, during which you can't perform any other actions. In other words; changing your outfit while fighting enemies is never a good idea. Make sure to create some distance between you and your opponent before donning another suit.
Every world you'll come across has a different story to tell, but what connects them all is the fact that things have gone horribly wrong and it's up to you to set things right again. For example, the first world features a story about a farmer who is possessed by an evil spirit and it's your task to break the spell and restore the farm to its peaceful self. After dispatching various enemies and collecting the hell out of everything hidden in the level, the time has finally come; Benga, Benga, Boss Fight time! This is the moment to make the most out of the outfits you are carrying. Most of the time, these boss fights will be a matter of hitting the boss three times in order to defeat him. Now, this may sound simple, but can be rather tricky at times.
This is where your outfits can really make a difference, as they might just tip the odds in your favor. I personally liked to have at least one outfit with an attack ability. There is a downside to it of course, because now I have to be really close to my enemy. A boss can also be defeated by an agility attack like thumping communicating platforms or deflecting and hitting back projectiles. So bosses have more than one way to finish them off, and each way that you discover will also be rewarded with a Balan Statue. If you choose to use one attack only, that's also fine. You will be rewarded with one statue and also win the fight, but this means you won't get your hands on those additional Balan Statues.
I really had a lot of fun with Balan Wonderworld. The controls might need a bit of getting used to but, in the end, they work fine. As I expected, it's a marvelous ride through magical worlds. The developers could have done a more thorough job on the tutorials, like why the Tims are in the game or the Changing Room for your outfits (at first I thought I lost the outfits as soon as I picked a fourth one up). But on the other hand, figuring things out as you go, contributes to the feeling of continuously discovering new things in this game. So, in short, Balan Wonderworld is one ride you will never forget!