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Ferrying a flock of afro-adorned critters through a ghastly gauntlet of increasingly menacing shadow machines is a challenging, sometimes messy affair in Badland. It's easy to get swept away by the gorgeous scenery cycling in the background of each doom-filled stage, but failing to focus on the dark traps springing to life in the foreground does not bode well for your gaggle. This interesting and visually distinct one-button game layers unique mechanics around its simple premise to keep you tapping along even when your cute crew gets shredded to pieces over and over again.
The eerie landscape is full of menacing gears, saw blades, pneumatic pistons, explosive spores, pinching spikes, and other dangers waiting to whittle down your troupe down in size and number. While there's little explanation as to the particulars of why, your task is to navigate each harsh environment and make it through to the other side with as many of your little pals intact as possible. Placing your finger on the screen makes your flock flap their tiny wings and rise, gaining forward momentum in the process. Letting go makes them descend and slow down. While your primary mode of transport is simple, your mission is anything but.
Navigating stages quickly becomes an exercise in fast-paced puzzle solving, as different power-ups and obstacles are thrown into your path. Items can speed up your movement, make your critter multiply into many smaller ones, and cause your horde to grow or shrink in size, among other effects. These help or hinder you, depending on what's coming up along the deadly path ahead. The fact that there's precious little time to think and react makes stages even more heart-pounding in nature, since stragglers are consumed as the screen scrolls forward. Luckily, forgiving checkpoints make up for some of the more brutally unflinching stages, and the overall creativity found throughout the sadistic level designs is impressive.
The bottom line. Simple, gorgeous, and brutal, Badland is a real treat for the senses that marvels as it challenges.
iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later
Amazing art style. Simple, intuitive controls. Inventive stage designs.
The challenge can grow frantic in spots.