Balan Wonderworld, preview of the new game from the creators of Sonic

Balan Wonderworld, preview of the new game from the creators of Sonic


What is Balan Wonderworld? The game world Varied gameplay in 80 tastes Certainties and doubts If you are among those who, one day and the next, wonder what happened to the strange and daring games of the old Sega, its blue skies and the most bizarre projects carried out with an arrogance now impossible to find in the current market, then keep an eye on this preview of Balan Wonderworld, because it could be a game for you. Several Japanese developers who made the history of the medium in the 80s and 90s seem to have remained strongly linked to that golden age of videogames, but if until some time ago this characteristic could be seen as a big limit, now it represents almost an element sought after, against the standardization of the videogame scene these days.

Of course, strange and paradoxical situations can emerge, products that seem to come straight out of those years and out of time nowadays, as we have seen a bit with Shenmue 3, but precisely in their being anachronistic they are finds the great charm of these projects, and this is a feature that already seems inherent in Balan Wonderworld, which however starts from different and potentially more suitable premises to establish itself successfully. Here it is above all about recovering Sega's most imaginative, action and flamboyant spirit: the dream worlds of Nights and the pure action of Sonic can be glimpsed in the first images and information on this game, elements that today are missing like bread in a an industry increasingly devoted to realism and standardized experiences with a sure economic return. These are the reasons that push us to look with great interest at the new game developed by director Yuji Naka and character designer Naoto Ohshima, or the two characters who created Sonic the Hedgehog and who are back to collaborate today, after 20 years, obviously with the same spirit of the past.

What is Balan Wonderworld?

It is not easy to define Balan Wonderworld, because it does not fall precisely into one of the standard genres: in in principle it can be approached to the 3D platform, but its multifaceted nature makes it a kind of multi-event adventure, with numerous variations on the theme. The vibrations from Nights Into Dreams are easily felt already from the description of the game, being an action adventure that allows us to explore various worlds based on memories and dreams, with elements taken from the real world filtered into a dreamlike and strange reworking, as befits to theatrical scenes. Because in fact Balan, or the enigmatic character with a top hat that is the symbol of the game, is in effect a sort of master of ceremony, who runs a kind of multidimensional show called Balan Theater, which stages various adventures in the different settings of the Wonderworld. The protagonists of this strange show are Emma and Leo, two boys who find themselves having to face different situations within the foreseen settings, with further variables represented by the usable costumes.

The two protagonists must free the Wonderworld from the monsters created by Lance, the main antagonist, who traps visitors in the magical world and transforms their fears and negative thoughts into various creatures and threats for Emma and Leo, scattered inside explorable worlds. The basic structure is that of the third-person action adventure, with a style of play and a type of frame that closely resembles the 3D platform typical of Sega, similar in some way to Sonic Adventure but with gameplay grafts also completely different and eclectic, derived from the possibility of facing different worlds wearing costumes that in fact transform not only the protagonists but the same approach to the game and the entire gameplay. Such a strange and multifaceted mechanism is not easy to keep compact, especially at the qualitative level, and in fact this aspect will have to be evaluated in more detail, because a game made up of many different games simply risks losing its identity by melting into streams of poorly structured gameplay. It will be a question of whether the personalities responsible for the project, who are not exactly naïve, will be able to keep the bar solid in this storm of genres and derivations.

The world of game

The game world is divided into the Isle of Tims, which is the peaceful and positive area where the mysterious creatures called Tims live, and the 12 separate worlds characterized by different settings, created by fears and tormented memories of those who live there, trapped by Lance. The initial Island is in fact a large hub from which it is possible to access the 12 worlds, but even within this part of the map it is possible to carry out some activities: in particular, we can raise the Tims by giving them the gems collected at the inside the various explorable worlds, each of which makes creatures evolve in a different way, developing different skills that can be useful to the protagonists. This aspect also brings us back to some classic Sega, because it is easy to think of the Chao of Sonic Adventure 2 and the game in the game represented by the breeding of creatures, even if in the case of Balan Wonderworld the question seems more structured and more integrated into the fabric of game, as the Tims have a more important active part in the gameplay.

The 12 explorable worlds are created from memories mixed with the fears of those who live there, trapped in this parallel dimension. Unlike the Isle of Tims, these are dangerous areas, populated by the Negates, or the set of negativities coming from the thoughts of the inhabitants. Emma and Leo must explore the worlds, facing their trials and defeating the Denied, until they reach the heart of these areas, where there is a boss who is then the individual himself a prisoner of his own fears. Once defeated, he is freed from his condition and the mission is accomplished, but to reach the central part of the worlds it is necessary to explore for a long time and take part in the different activities that are proposed, solving puzzles and passing tests of skill. In the end, it all culminates in boss fights, which represent particularly spectacular moments.

Varied gameplay in 80 flavors

Balan Wonderworld can be considered a 3D platformer, of those that we used to see on consoles between the 90s and early 2000s and which have mysteriously disappeared in large part, if not for some nostalgic re-enactment to which even this title can actually belong. Coming from undisputed masters in this same genre, however, the Square Enix game takes on considerable importance even beyond the easy recall of models of the past. In fact, it is a sort of new interpretation of the 3D platform, which takes on new forms and declinations, from time to time, based on the numerous different situations in which Emma and Leo find themselves within the 12 worlds to be explored. There are moments more inclined to action and others more reflective in which there is to solve puzzles and riddles, but in general it is the ability to move the essential factor to solve the different situations.

A fundamental element of variation is then given by the possibility of changing the costumes of the protagonists, thus modifying their appearance in a substantial way and adding different gameplay elements thanks to the specific skills that are connected to each particular dress. In total there are about 80 costumes to find and wear, just to give an idea of ​​the amount of variables that can be added to the standard gameplay, each of which allows you to approach the game in a slightly different way: there are the more suited ones. combat, which allow you to attack enemies in various ways, those that modify the movements and skills of movement, allowing you to walk in midair or jump higher and those that modify the possibilities of interaction with the scenario, with special powers such as slowing down time or manipulating objects. Also of note is the ability to play two-player cooperative multiplayer game, which will likely make the action in the bizarre world of Balan Wonderworld even more engaging.

Both 3D platformers that Sega's dreamlike and brilliant visions are very lacking in today's videogame panorama, so Balan Wonderworld is a game to be particularly kept an eye on, even regardless of how little we know for the moment. On the other hand, the names of Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima are enough to awaken the interest of anyone who lived the 90s as a gamer and the strange imaginative style that permeates all this title demonstrates how the spirit of Nights and Sonic Adventure is still particularly alive it's magic. A game that could fill an important void, waiting to try the gameplay in a practical way.


Style and magical atmospheres that refer to the Sega of the golden times The 3D platform adventure not seen for a while, in this form Many worlds and costumes promise a remarkable variety of situations


The gameplay could be too eclectic and lose consistency Technically it does not seem the best, even if it is one aspect secondary

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