Balan Wonderworld is a game that got fairly infamous right after it came out. People had been expecting the next big thing but instead the game turned out to be a very sloppy production on all sides of the ball. Due to that I was able to find it for a really good price at 6 bucks though so was it really as bad as all that? In a lot of ways it is. There are some areas here where you see some potential but on the whole this just isn’t a good game and I can’t imagine dropping $60 on it. I’d be feeling pretty sad at that point.
The game starts by showing us two kids who are not having a good day. They end up getting taken into Balan’s world and now they have to help various people who are dying or have fallen into the darkness. They can do this by defeating the evil monster personified through the person and collect some statues along the way. Can the kids manage to achieve eternal peace or are they just doomed at this point?
Now the game doesn’t have much dialogue at all so this is my interpretation here but you can probably look at things a bit differently as well. Balan has an archnemesis running around who is causing these nightmares and monsters to appear so we have to take him down for the count as well. Along the way the kids learn what it means to have a good time and enjoy themselves. The game is clearly trying to have a moving story but without voice acting or better cutscenes it is just hard to get that across. At no point will you be particularly interested/engaged in the story. It just never pops out at you.
I really think of the game itself as Ninjabread Man but with a bigger budget. The actual platforming is even a bit weaker than Ninjabread Man, good luck on some of the jumps here! Balan Wonderworld’s main gimmick is that it’s a one button game. At no point in the campaign do you need to do more than press one button. That’s it. Whichever button you press allows you to jump or use whatever ability your costume has. It makes this game rather easy to master of course but there will be less depth within the title as a result so it’s really a true tradeoff.
So in each level the objective is to get to the end but you also have to try and grab some golden statues along the way. Each level has 7 gold statues and you want to average around 3 when you complete a level so that you don’t get stuck. That’s because every world has a statue requirement so if you beat the level without getting enough statues then it will definitely come back to haunt you. I never particularly appreciate having to go and grab collectibles so that didn’t do the game any favors either. The game also does everything it can to slow you down.
For example, some statues are only obtainable for a short potion of the level so if you miss it or beat the minions too quickly then it will disappear. Others are locked in areas that you can’t reach without a costume that you would unlock in a future world. As a result the game is really just doing its best to waste your time or at least it feels like that a lot of the time. The collectibles really were regrettable. Then you have eggs and gems you can grab in the level but they don’t do much of anything. I suppose they help you construct the clock tower in the hub world but there’s no benefit to doing so aside from a trophy and that takes a while.
You just sort of stand there and let the minions build the tower which gets old very quickly. It should have been a more active experience where you get to jump in and everything. The levels and bosses may have some annoying parts but ultimately the platforming gameplay is not terrible. It’s basic but you can have a calming experience just running around at some points in the game. The final boss was not developed well though. There is a glitch where if you bump into the final boss you end up losing all of your lives immediately and have to replay the whole climax from the start. Not a great look if you ask me.
Because of that the final boss took me more tries than it should have. Now I will give the game credit for having decent graphics. I thought all of the screens were colorful and the character designs were on point. There were actual cutscenes which is good and the main villain had a great design even if he couldn’t really manage to do anything. At no point do you ever think that he is a threat to Balan. Why would you when Balan humiliates him over 20 times before you reach the end of the game?
Each level has what are called “Balan Bouts” where you get to beat up the villain through some quick time events. Much like the rest of the game this is a section that has potential but is dragged out way too much. You have to go through the whole sequence in every level and you have to get a perfect score to get the gold statue. Mess up the sequence at all and you may as well close your eyes for the rest since it doesn’t matter. Each cutscene sequence is rather long and drawn out which doesn’t help matters either.
That brings me to the cutscene that plays after beating each boss. There are like 3 songs that cycle over and over as you dance with the characters. The character models do the same drawn out dance each time with the only changes being the character models. It feels rather lazy and if you want to do a celebration after each level then you have to make it quick or iconic. Kirby is an example of how you do this really effectively. It’s short enough where you find it fun rather than repetitive. I’ll give the game some credit for having a real soundtrack filled with songs here but the whole time you just know that it could have done better so as not to make you tired of the songs.
As mentioned, there is just a whole lot of things that went wrong here. Ultimately it’s fair to say that one of the biggest problems is how the game just goes about wasting your time. Having to re-enter a level to grab a statue if you messed up the Balan bout is pretty bad. The statues being required to enter each world is unfortunate and so when you beat the game and unlock a bunch of new levels there is no anticipation on you side. There’s no drive to go and complete the levels because you just aren’t interested enough. Obtaining the platinum is very achievable but it’s a time consuming one so I don’t see myself going back for it anytime soon.
Overall, Balan Wonderworld is about what I expected if not a little worse. It’s really known as a bad game and when a title drops in price so drastically you know that you have to pick it up. Ultimately I would say it’s a little better than the reputation. I mean, it’s not good but it’s not all that bad either and so I’d put it in the middle. You can absolutely play this for a while as a way to pass the time but there are countless platforming titles that are better which you should spend your time on instead.