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Review: BADLAND 2 – more glorious action-puzzle adventuring

App Store favorite BADLAND is back in town, with a new control scheme up its sleeve…

Price: $4.99/£3.99
Version: 1.0
Size: 125 MB
Developer: Frogmind
Platform: iPhone and iPad

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2013’s BADLAND, winner of an Apple Game of the Year award, was a gorgeous side-scrolling romp that set the bar for adventure gaming on mobile. We’re pleased to announce that the sequel, dropped on us out of nowhere as a festive surprise, doesn’t disappoint. Spoiler alert: BADLAND 2 is more of the same, but it’s very, very good.

If you missed the original, here’s a recap: in BADLAND, you steer a hovering black blob through beautiful and dangerous levels comprised of giant landmines, deadly flamethrowers and spinning buzzsaws, dodging obstacles and solving physics-based action puzzles along the way. To spice things up there are a series of powerups which can temporarily adjust your size, shape, speed and even stickiness. Most importantly, one of the powers will split your character into multiple clones; the aim is to reach the end of each level with as many clones as possible still alive.

Why bother recapping the first game? Because the second one hasn’t changed much: everything above still applies here. The premise and the (excellent) graphics are the same, so in order to justify a sequel the developers have mixed up the gameplay instead. Previously, levels were strictly a straightforward left-to-right affair – tap to hover as you constantly move forward. Now a tap on the right or left of the screen will move the clones in that direction. Tap with both thumbs at once to move upwards, and let go to fall.


When you have this many clones, it’s inevitable a few of them won’t make it…

It’s a simple change, but opens up a world of new possibilities for the game’s designers. Giving the player more precise control over movement means levels can now be omnidirectional, with labyrinthine paths spreading every which way. As a result the levels feel fresher, with a sense of scale and unpredictability previously unseen in the series. Some of the levels are breathtakingly creative: rotating gravity wells, slow-motion machine gunning, and buttons that freeze time all feature. Though familiar, everything in the game feels varied and inventive.

As well as the old favorites, there’s a new powerup to play with which turns you into what looks like a floret of black cauliflower. These veggie-esque clones can’t fly, but they can roll pretty fast and even survive a glancing blow from a buzzsaw. This rolling mechanic is used in some of the game’s best stages including the final level, which requires a satisfying mastery of gravity, momentum and timing to complete without being shredded into tiny pieces.


Stop time to roll across a frozen jet of liquid

Though the single player campaign is relatively short – just 30 levels so far, with 10 more teased when you finish the game – there’s a lot of replayability here in the form of bonus challenges for each level. Trying to complete these ramps up the difficulty considerably as you attempt to save a specific number of clones or finish within a set time limit.

Additionally there’s a very well-conceived online mode in which you compete with other badlanders for the best scores in a series of constantly changing challenge levels. There are survival, racing and clone-saving challenges to compete in, with some bespoke levels you won’t see in the main game. It adds a welcome competitive edge to proceedings and encourages complete mastery of the controls.


Rank up to compete in the global leaderboards

If you’re rocking the latest iPhone 6s, you’ll be pleased to hear that the game takes full advantage of the screen’s pressure-sensing 3D Touch technology. It feels very natural and offers a little extra control, with movement speed dictated by how hard you press the screen. Not a game-changer, but certainly a good sign of things to come for iPhone gaming!

It’s a shame not to see the excellent level editor from the first game make an appearance – we’d love to be able to design and share levels that take advantage of the more precise flying controls. That said, developers Frogmind have been great at providing free updates to the original BADLAND, and they promise more of the same here. So even our criticism about the length of the game hopefully won’t be a valid complaint for long.


The puzzles are imaginative, many levels showcasing a unique gimmick

Long story short, this is a game worth picking up whether or not you played the first one. There’s plenty of room for additional content down the line, but more importantly there’s a lot to enjoy already. This level of polish is rare on the App Store – it’s one of the best looking mobile games out there – and we think it’s well worth the $5 asking price. BADLAND 2 is a gem.