Multiplayer videogames tend to bring out the worst in me. I have a temper. I have cursed at and been cursed at, and I've flown into Achillean rage during Mario Kart 64: "Sing, O Goddess, the rage of Yoshi / after he was blasted by a Blue Shell." During one particularly heated game of NBA Jam, I pushed my competitor off the couch we were sharing and said some quite rude things about former Chicago Bulls small forward Toni Kukoc.

But I've never punched anyone over a game, nor has anyone ever punched me -- until I downloaded Frogmind's Badland [$0.99].

Badland is the debut effort from Frogmind, a Finnish duo who cut their teeth on RedLynx Trials series. It is, like so many App Store games, a one-button physics game: touching the screen causes a troupe of silhouetted gremlins (I always called them "little fatties" in my head) to fly forward and upward; releasing your finger allows them to float to the ground. It's our job to guide the afro-sporting fatties through a perilous swamp rigged with booby traps, buzz saws, pneumatic pistons, and spinning fan blades designed to slice, dice, explode, impale, smush, and otherwise destroy them.

With its stark silhouettes and tendency toward quick, brutal death, Badland lends itself to Limbo comparisons, but it's more similar to games like Mekensleep's cult hit Soul Bubbles or 2D Boy's World of Goo [$4.99]. In each level, you'll find power-ups that "clone" your character, and several of the puzzles depend on splitting your flock and sending them down alternate paths to push levers or collect important items. In extreme cases, it might be necessary to sacrifice dozens of clones so that one might slip through some hellmouth toward the end of the level.

Other power-ups include, say, shrinking your flyers, or speeding them up, or coating them in sticky goo. These are pretty common platformer conceits, but Frogmind gets a lot of mileage out of its physics engine, simple controls, and basic structure; bolstered by extra, optional missions, striking, parallax-scrolling environments, and lush art direction.

Badland is never particularly forthcoming in explaining its various mechanics or in telegraphing traps or dangers. The art style hides any number of bombs and toxic spores, and Frogmind are content to let players figure it out. And so it is with Badland's hint of narrative: woodland creatures and malevolent machines watch your progress, but you'll be left to puzzle over any hints of a story on your own.

Frogmind's focus on intricate physics, trial-and-error, and repetition shouldn't be surprising given their past work on Trials, but Badland isn't quite as well-equipped to handle that type of game. The one-touch control scheme is ideal for iOS games generally, but Badland's capricious physics engine and controls are fine-tuned in such a way that no two runs are ever feel quite the same, and similar-seeming inputs don't always produce the intended effects on-screen.

As a result, it can be hard to locate problem areas or learn your way through a given puzzle. And even when you find a solution, actually executing it is another matter. Especially in the beginning, playing Badland is an exercise of balancing frustration with the thrill of seeing (somewhat arbitrarily) the stars align as you guide your fatties to freedom.

Indeed, plenty of Badland seems to play itself: the levels auto-scroll, the power-ups govern most of the interesting things you can do with your flyer, and some of the levels can be completed with minimal input at all. There are times when Badland is just a cool physics toy with a smart sense of timing. That's not a bad thing -- Badland mitigates its difficulty by giving players a chance to relax and enjoy its art and kineticism.

As I mentioned earlier, Badland features a local multiplayer mode: up to four players can guide their own color-coded fatties through a number of levels. Points are scored for finishing the race first and for finishing with extra clones. Like everything else in Badland, other players' characters are physics-enabled, which means I can, for example, push them into a group of sawblades and cackle as they make an audible pop. This kind of behavior is exactly what got me punched in the chest, which speaks to the fervor, intensity, and excitement Badland engenders.

In fact, everything that makes Badland's single-player difficult -- the hidden traps, the finicky controls, the unpredictable physics -- makes its multiplayer a blast. There is a way to win, of course, but it's mostly just a vehicle for screwing with other people. It's fast and frenetic, and the short levels can be strung together into longer rounds for more sustained schadenfreude.

The game's simple controls means that anyone can play, and its unpredictability keeps any one player from dominating a match. That's not to say that Badland's multiplayer is the main draw or the focus of the game, but adding an extra human player changes the entire tenor of the game, even though the mechanics stay the same: the single-player portion is somber and delicate, but the multiplayer is frantic and bombastic.

That type of versatility and richness speaks to the strength of the core ideas behind Badland. In a marketplace lousy with them, Badland is a well-considered and well-executed physics-based puzzle-platformer, tetchy controls notwithstanding. Badland's visual style is striking and mysterious, but it's supported by slick design and the promise of future content in the pipeline -- another set of levels is "coming soon," apparently. With all these things in mind, Badland is easy to reccommend.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • garret44

    I give it 5 stars. I think badland is a perfect ios game. Although a story is not told, it's got such a unique atmosphere throughout compatible to limbo.

    And even more levels on the way? We're just being absolutely spoiled.

    Definitely ios game of the year material

    • wigzisonfire

      Yea I'm with you there dude! This is hands down game of the year so far for me. It will take some beating!

      Great review except for you gripe at the controls! These controls are literally the best I have ever experienced on any game! I left every play session actually blown away by how the controls and intricate levels felt like they had been tweaked to absolute perfection.

      I have nothing but great things to say for these developers.

      • garret44

        Ya the controls are excellent in my opinion, I bet some people just don't realize that when your clones get bigger they way more and vice versa. And when you get the slowdown powerup it's supposed to make it difficult to go.

        Anyone who hasn't tried this with headphones must! The sound effects move from right headphone to left as you pass by objects.

        It's stunning and immersive

      • garret44

        *weigh

      • LOLCAT

        I know! The controls are absolutely fantastic and the game is 100% perfect.

    • scarnie

      Couldn't agree more. The visuals in this game are stunning.

  • GiHubb

    I found the controls and physics to be spot on. Game of the year material for me. Even my wife is enjoying the multiplayer and she generally hates all video games!

    • decabao

      wife material

      • decabao

        whoops sry, i read gf

  • xx99

    Also a five star and, with Year Walk, a GoTY contender for me. Having completed the entire story mode, I can say I found the controls tight and extremely usable. There were only two or three points in the entire 40-level campaign that I ever felt my deaths were unfair. The game's excellent checkpoint system goes a long way to mitigate any frustration.

    I found the art, style, physics, controls, and level design all superb. Above any other iOS game I have played, the sound effects blew me away. This is definitely a game for headphones.

    • xx99

      Oh, a quick note on the controls: the character's wing flaps are only aesthetic. Regardless of where the wing flap is in its animation, pressing the screen raises your character and releasing the screen lowers your character.

      The graphical cues really make it seem like you are controlling the flapping. This is probably the only thing I think Frogmind should have improved.

  • sakara214ever

    Game of the year so far for me.

  • MrSHakerEsq

    Way over priced if you ask me.

    • garret44

      You really could've used that 3.99 for power ups on a free to play game. Get outta here

    • McCREE

      Put it on your watch list and pick it up when it's on sale ;)

      • McCREE

        I only say this because this dude comes into every price drop thread and touts his hatred for wish lists because they handicap indie developers. I was being ironic. /downvote

    • McCREE

      Now that I think about it, I can't even tell if you're serious. For all the preaching you do about supporting indie developers, it's surprising to see you complain about a title that does everything right and nothing wrong. I think you're just trying to stir the pot, and that kind of makes me a little embarrassed for you.

    • themostunclean

      Guess what- this is exactly the attitude that's killing premium gaming on iOS. Badland is a HUGE victory for people who loathe IAP.

      Feel free to back to playing freemium garbage. Just do the real gamers a favor and stay the hell off iOS until your ready to actually support the greatest art form on the planet.

    • PureRumble

      No! We're NOT asking u!

      For f•ck sake, just a few dollars.

      The greed runs strong in this one n his kind...

    • Happybyte

      My opinion may be also unpopular, but yes, I agree with all that. The game is quite overpriced. Nothing about supporting indie devs. There are much more indie devs with better games no one of you guys buy for 0.99. The game soon became boring after a few levels. Ones that cry "cool" game just have biased opinion. May be because they backed the game on KS.

      • McCREE

        Well I'm always in the market for some new games. Fill me in on some of these great .99ers that none of us know about...I'll check them out for sure...

      • Happybyte

        I've seen many even features by Apple and reviewed here that even didn't make to top 200. Have no time to analyze this now. What about Badland, the lucky turn of events gave this game a buzz and much of coverage that lead to successful KS funding and a banner on App Store. The game itself is a rip-off of a few other games - nothing new or revolutionary, even boring. It will go away as soon as Apple removes the banner away from the App Store.

      • McCREE

        So now you have to "analyze" something to figure out a few of the "many" .99 games out there better than this one? Sounds like someone is back pedaling a little. If $4 is more than you can afford, that's fine. Calling this overpriced because you're used to .99 play-once-and-throw-away, dime a dozen trash titles that flood the marketplace every week is absurd. You can stick to your freemium garbage. The rest of the people, the ones that appreciate a fresh experience instead of the same old crap rehashed again and again and again are going to love this. You sound like an idiot when you say $4 is overpriced. I piss $4 in the morning before I brush my teeth. The sense of entitlement among you fools that think anything more than $1 is too much is outrageous.

      • Happybyte

        Overpriced with it isn't a matter with what you or I can afford, clearly, 4 dollars are almost nothing. Appealing to you can't afford topic is just demagogue. You should know exactly what I mean under overpriced.

      • McCREE

        I know overpriced, and this isn't it.

      • themostunclean

        Yeah. Where are these great .99¢ indie games that aren't stuffed full of IAP? I'd like to check them out too.

        Preposterous, unsupported garbage.

      • Happybyte

        IAP in many games is an option in no way necessary to play. But I guess you won't even try such games. You'll be whinnin on forums about IAP instead.

        PS. I hate agressive IAP either.

      • themostunclean

        If you mean by play that you can load it on your device and run it for a while then yes, it's not necessary to buy IAP to play. If by play you mean progress at a comfortable pace and actually enjoy yourself, then you're delusional.

        And If you don't like hearing people talk about not liking IAP then your on the wrong site. We speak up because iOS gaming could be much more but it's held back by people just accepting crap as the norm.

      • themostunclean

        And I wouldn't say I dislike something without even trying it. It really sounds more like like you're the one with limited experience with free to play.

      • precious sloane

        I'd rather play iap if it means i can try a game and support but givng deveopliers money to make games beytter, but this it okay as well

      • MidianGTX

        I played every level twice and I'm still waiting for it to become even slightly boring... this is one of the finest games ever to hit touchscreens if you ask me. The overpriced statement is ridiculous for many reasons.

      • themostunclean

        +1

      • MrSHakerEsq

        -1

      • themostunclean

        +infinity

      • themostunclean

        Just thought I'd play along with you being completely childish.

      • drwifflesniffle

        You can buy four reskinned versions of Angry Birds if you want, or 20 gems for [insert f2p game here] to speed up the timer to milk the cow or drink a potion, your choice.

  • Jussi Lepistö

    I've read some complaints about the controls, mainly that they're clunky and make you bump into stuff constantly, but having played about a third of the game through, I don't agree. I think it's a perfect example of how finely tuned controls contribute to the game experience. The feeling of the controls (or should I say control) is a perfect match for the visuals and audio, making the ambience as a whole one of the best gaming experiences of the year so far.

  • TheFrost

    Great review but forgot mention that Badland is an IAP-free app

  • McCREE

    Brilliant controls, great atmosphere, engaging gameplay, updates in the pipeline and an active developer that refuses to incorporate IAP. Frogmind absolutely nailed this title and I couldn't be happier with my purchase.

  • http://www.facebook.com/juhana.myllys Juhana Myllys

    Hello! Nice review! Excellent comments :) Here's some new info:

    We have already started working on Day II. We have big plans for it and
    we want to continue bringing something new in the Day II also. We will
    bring a new update that will begin the Day II next month, on May. Even
    before that, really soon we will bring a smaller update with new
    multiplayer levels to play with your friends.

    • ZorakZoran

      Thanks a lot for this game, it's great work, everything is perfect for me, including the controls. You made a gamer happy, I'm tired of fast food, iap-riddled games, it's been a long time I didn't play such a good game on iOS. Hope you had some success, and that you'll continue bringing such gems to the AppStore.

      • http://www.facebook.com/juhana.myllys Juhana Myllys

        Thank you! BADLAND has definitely found it's audience. It means that we will keep BADLAND alive for a long time!

  • quinndom

    Definitly should have been 5 stars
    The controls r perfect and the physics r some, if not the best, ive ever seen in an ios game. The checkpoints are slso fantastic by the way.
    And to tell u the truth, i enjoy being killed out of nowhere, for some reason not really knowing what killed u is a bit funny.
    This is a great game, definitly my choice to game of the year

  • MidianGTX

    It's nice to see a review with so many comments in agreement with each other.

  • one.sixty.four

    I haven't got it yet and I'm wondering if those of you that have bought it think that it was worth the 4$. Thanks!

    • decabao

      YES

    • quinndom

      For sure, amount of things in the game right now is eorth $2, and eith day 2 coming, no question

  • Guest

    I love the game too, but I wish the multiplayer game would let the winner play through to the end. For me it's more satisfying to get sucked up by the vacuum tube than to beat my opponents.

  • Guest

    I love the game too, but I wish the multiplayer game would let the
    winner play through to the end. For me it's more satisfying to get
    sucked up by the vacuum tube than to beat my opponents.

  • Librarian

    I love this game. I wish that the multiplayer mode would let the winner play to the end. I think it's more satisfying to get to the vacuum tube than just to beat your opponent(s).

  • LOLCAT

    So...WHY did It not get 5 stars?!

  • mzinn

    This game took me a few minutes to get into this game. First few levels i was like ok kinda cool but no big deal. Then i kept playing & playing & getting farther & seeing new issues that i had to get past. Now I'm addicted. Love it. Give it a bit of time & it will grab you & pull you in. Cool graphics & sound is nice. This game just works!

BADLAND Reviewed by Joseph Leray on . Rating: 4.5