Balan Wonderworld – Review

balan wonderworld
balan wonderworld
Release Date
March 26, 2021
Square Enix
Square Enix, Azrest
PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Reviewed on
Review copy provided by
Square Enix

They say that Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure, in Balan Wonderworld you do seem to start on an adventure, but with an incoherent story, clunky gameplay, and frustrating mechanics, all that thrill of adventure pretty much goes out the window and what replaces it is a feeling of dread and a game filled to the brim with frustration and head-scratching moments.

I guess it’s pretty safe to say that Balan Wonderworld isn’t as Wonderful as it set out to be.
Balan Wonderworld is a 3D platformer set in a magical and whimsical world full of dancing foxes, bunny rabbits, and shiny-looking coins to collect.

Now, I do think that all of us gamers are accustomed to the objective of getting to the end of the level to proceed to the next one. Initially, that’s what I thought on my first couple levels of Balan Wonderworld, but I was puzzled when after a fairly easy boss battle, no new paths opened up for me. This meant that I was stuck in a loop of repeating the same levels over and over again.

I was very surprised to know that you had to collect a set number of these somewhat hidden statues in levels to proceed to the next stage. I really can’t tell if my mindset is wrong on this, but I’ve been accustomed to the fact that statues and coins are optional collectibles in a game, rewarding the player for careful exploration and curiosity. Locking progression with collectibles did rub me the wrong way and had to be my major complaint of Balan Wonderworld.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about one of Balan Wonderworld’s main selling points, the 80 costumes you can magically change into. Throughout the game, you will need abilities to help you get past obstacles and you’ll need one of Balan Wonderworld’s many costumes to do that. Costumes like the Tornado wolf helps you with breaking rocks with its tornado ability, The Dainty Dragon, allows you to attack enemies with fireballs and the Itsy-bitsy Elf can help you get through small spaces.

These abilities are okay and all, but a 3D platformer will always need your character to jump at some point and these abilities remove your ability the jump altogether as you can only control your character using one button. There have been numerous times, where a statue was just out of reach because my character just couldn’t jump, which meant that I had to get hit to get the costume removed, but then I would need it again for the obstacles ahead, which made the experience a lot more frustrating. I wonder why couldn’t they just add a jump button to save us all from all that backtracking.

Balan Wonderworld’s story is just as confusing and head-scratching as the elements surrounding it. You play as either Leo or Emma, who starts off getting bullied by their peers and starts brooding over it on an empty street when they notice a carnival-looking theatre building piquing their curiosity. They are then greeted by Balan, who then escorts them to the wonderworld. What is this wonderworld you might ask, well throughout the stages of the game, you get to help people that have been wronged or have experienced negativity in their lives. You then help them get over this negativity by collecting statues and beating a boss which could be a metaphor for their negativity.

Note that this is only my interpretation as this is all very confusing and the lack of dialogue just doesn’t work with this type of storytelling. You are generally getting thrown into a level, where you have to collect statues, beat a boss, and at the end, you get rewarded with a cut scene not explaining much and everyone dances to a musical score at the end. They might have withheld the cutscenes at the end of every level to let players experience an “ahh” or an amazing eureka moment, but everything just comes off very flat and confusing.

The game also includes a quick-time mini-game where you press the button whenever Balan’s Shadow lines up with him. Now the thing is, Balan is fighting rocks. Why in the world would you be fighting a rock?

All in all, Balan Wonderworld just wasn’t the game for me. The gameplay was tedious, the story was all over the place and the mechanics belonged to either a prehistoric or an unfinished game. To be quite honest, I’d say that the price to get into Balan Wonderworld is too high for an experience with the quality too low.

balan wonderworld
Balan Wonderworld – Review
Score Definition
You’ll be left out with a “meh” after finishing the game. What game did we just play?
Costumes provide unique abilities
Clunky gameplay
Frustrating Mechanics
Flat story
Uninteresting characters
Below Average