Review: WackyLands Boss
Please note that these screenshots are for the iOS version of WackyLands Boss
Folks around here may be getting the impression that I am easily won over by charm. My 2010 Game of the Year was Costume Quest, after all, and I recently gave five stars to a little game called About A Blob. WackyLands Boss trades heavily on the same kind of charm, so one could easily assume I would be just as enamoured with this cute minis title. I really wish this were the case: the game began as an endearing little beat ’em up. By the time I had completed the first world, however, I found I had to force myself to continue playing. The charm of WackyLands Boss conceals a shallow and only mildly entertaining gameplay experience.
This minis title casts you in the role of the evil “Boss” monster, scourge of the citizens and heroes of WackyLand. One might expect this to lead to a genre-bending twist on gameplay conventions, but alas, that would be expecting too much. Instead, the game is a fairly conventional side-scrolling brawler, excepting that your character dwarfs the majority of your foes. I don’t know about any games you’ve played, but in the majority of my experiences, the “Boss” is almost always the character at the end of the level, waiting for me to arrive. Misled expectations aside, the majority of your time in Wackylands will be spent walking from left to right and pounding the snot out of miniscule knights, archers, ninjas, and Hyrulean-esque heroes. This, also, sounds more fun than it actually turns out to be.
I’ve enjoyed side-scrolling beat ’em ups since the days of Double Dragon on the NES. I didn’t think it was possible to make one disinteresting, until I played Fly Fu last year. Wackylands Boss really seemed like it had a lot going for it, but in the end, it had the shallowest gameplay of any game in recent memory. Your giant monster has a light and heavy attack, as well as three special abilities that charge up as you defeat enemies. Since the monster is such a large target, its only defense is a roll maneuver that grants a temporary invulnerability. That’s all you get; the basic moves do not chain into meaningful combos, there are no further unlockable abilities, and the monster cannot even move while attacking. Combined with levels that last up to twenty minutes from beginning to end, the result is a rather boring string of button-mashing punctuated by the odd roll or fire breath. There is a little variety to be had outside of combat, where you can “evolve” the monster into different skins (which slightly change one of its special abilities) and purchase some visually-entertaining equipment. These will also affect a number of stats for the monster, and combined with a level-up system, you may be fooled into believing this game contains some RPG elements. The monster stats seem very wonky; I lost one boss battle because I couldn’t deal enough damage to it, so I switched my equipment to boost my attack power. Unfortunately, the same equipment also dropped my defense; however, during the rematch, I took half the amount of damage with each strike, and dealt the same amount of pain as the previous battle. It just didn’t make sense.
The game certainly isn’t short, with a good twelve of the aforementioned 20-minute levels that are peppered with enough checkpoints to prevent death from becoming a meaningful obstacle. There is also an unlockable arena, which offers further awards and experience for enduring an endless supply of finger-numbing “fun.” Visually, the game has a lot going for it. The customizable monster looks plenty cute, especially with the entertaining variety of equipment available. The backgrounds have a fair amount of detail, and there are a variety of enemies, though that variety wears thin after the first world. The music is appropriate but the sound design is seriously lacking. The cute little death cry of the enemies and the mocking laughter of the wizards are repeated far too often to remain cute for long. There were several instances where some sound effects were interrupted and either didn’t play at all or continued to loop well after they should have stopped. Finally, important events like the collapse of a tower or castle have no sound effect at all.
Generally, I try to limit my game reviews to the platform I played them on, regardless of any others they may be available on. However, it is obvious that Fair Play Studios has ported this game from their $1 iOS version (in fact, the only screens and videos I could find were of that version). In the process, they removed two mini-games and one special ability. I have not tried the iOS version, but it is fair to inform you that a more complete version of the game exists on another platform for a fifth of the price of this minis title.
Wackylands Boss is a great looking game, and its visual style exudes quite a bit of charm. It isn’t enough to save it from being a dull, shallow, and ultimately unenjoyable experience.
For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Portable version of the game.
What I Like:
- Charming graphical style.
What I Dislike:
- Fairly mindless button-masher.
- Shallow gameplay.