Balan Wonderworld Review: An Old-School Platformer

Balan Wonderland is a wonderfully old-school platformer. (Credit: Square Enix)

When the designers of the jump-and-run classics Sonic the Hedgehog and Nights into Dreams work together again for the first time in over 20 years, the hearts of genre fans leap with excitement. Balan Wonderworld has finally been released, and in our review, we'll tell you whether the colorful platformer is really worth it!

Are you in the mood for another brightly colored jump-and-run from the pen of the Sonic creators? Then publisher Square Enix, and developer Arzest have something for you: Balan Wonderworld makes the jump to pretty much all current platforms. We take a closer look in this review!

Balan Wonderworld Review: Sonic Meets Nights!

It only takes a few minutes of playing before you'll be taken right back to the good old Sega days, while playing Balan Wonderworld. The colorful graphics, the game design, and last but not least, the appearance of master Balan himself, show striking similarities to genre classics like Nights into Dreams.

The two heroes, Leo and Emma, enter the mysterious Balan Theater, and are then drawn into the eponymous Wonderworld, but this parallel dimension is not as wonderful as it first appears.

The hearts and minds of the inhabitants are out of balance, and so it's once again up to you to make them happy in the coming hours. Each of the twelve game worlds is composed of the fears of a certain character. However, you shouldn't expect a really intense story from Balan Wonderworld.

The thin story is told through short film sequences, which are also in a fantasy language – almost like the good old days without fully dubbed dialogs! But, don't worry: the game mainly relies on unique game mechanics that set the platformer apart from the genre competition.

Balan wonderland story
In the 12 worlds, it's all about facing the fears of the inhabitants. (Credit: Square Enix)

Balan Wonderworld Review: What Makes the Gameplay Special

Basically, Balan Wonderworld presents itself as a classic 3D platformer in the style of Super Mario Odyssey and co. You jump over obstacles, climb platforms, and fight against all kinds of enemies or bosses.

What makes the gameplay special, however, is the costumes: you can collect more than 80 outfits over the course of your adventure, each of which grants you different abilities.

One example from the beginning of Balan Wonderworld is when you wear a Tornado Wolf outfit on a farm. Later you'll even don spiders, octopuses, or hydrants await you.

Depending on the costume you choose, you can run through the air, stop time, or manipulate objects within the world. In co-op mode, you can even give both heroes new abilities, and reach places that remain hidden to soloists.

Otherwise, you can expect the obligatory collectible Balan statues and golden hats, which culminate in a simple quick-time event mini-game when picked up. This is nice at first, but offers little challenge.

Balan wonderworld tornadowolf gameplay
80 outfits with different abilities await you. (Credit: Square Enix)

Balan Wonderworld Review: How Good Is it on PS5?

Balan Wonderworld presents itself as a wonderfully classic 3D platformer, and this is meant in a positive way. The jump-and-run lacks real innovations or wow moments, but genre fans will still get their money's worth.

Especially the colorful, stylish presentation leaves a good impression; after all, the various worlds could have come straight out of any Pixar animated film!

Okay, the texture quality is on a manageable level (after all, the game has to run on the Switch), but Balan Wonderworld makes use of the adaptive triggers on the PS5 DualSense controller. Depending on the current costume, the triggers have different resistances.

Balan wonderworld technik ps5
The presentation is pleasing, even without 4K textures. (Credit: Square Enix)

Balan Wonderworld Review: Our Verdict!

If you don't expect an absolute genre milestone, Balan Wonderworld will serve you well. Especially in co-op mode, the platformer unfolds a lot of potential, and provides some pleasant, if rather shallowly entertaining, hours of gameplay.

Especially on the PlayStation 5, where good jumping games are currently pretty scarce (*cough* Sackboy *cough*), genre fans should risk a look at the game from publisher Square Enix. Switch and Co., on the other hand, have better options at their disposal.

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This article was originally written by Philipp Briel.