Quick-fire April 2021, Part One

BALAN WONDERWORLD is a family friendly 3D puzzle platformer brought to us by Square Enix and ARZEST Corp. on the 26th of March 2021. Welcome to BALAN WONDERWORLD – a wondrous all-action show, the likes of which has never been seen before.

BALAN WONDERWORLD is a wondrous action platformer game themed around the Balan Theatre. Led by the enigmatic maestro named Balan, the stars of the show Emma and Leo will use special abilities from a multitude of characterful costumes as they adventure in the bizarre and imaginary land of Wonderworld. Here memories and vistas from the real world mix with the things that people hold dear.

For BALAN WONDERWORLD two legendary game creators, Naka Yuji (Sonic the Hedgehog and NiGHTS Into Dreams) and Oshima Naoto (Sonic Adventure), formed together BALAN COMPANY team, as they were reunited for the first time in 20 years. In it, you take the role of Leo Craig or Emma Cole, girls who are throughout the game guided by a magical creature named Balan. BALAN WONDERWORLD’s aesthetic is based around a musical theater, so you kind of get a platformer and a musical in one go. The game consists out of twelve chapters. At the beginning of the game only one chapter is available, so you will need to collect Balan Statues that unlock the next chapters. You navigate through sandbox levels in which you find different collectables and costumes. Each costume offers an ability of its own, so you need to switch between them to complete the puzzles and levels. There are 80 different costumes available through the whole game, but some of them are pretty useless, as you can use the previous one to complete the same tasks, may I add. You can only use three costumes at the same time, but a costume bank can be accessed during checkpoints, where you can modify the costumes available. The gameplay is pretty simple, you only use one button for your actions and two of them to switch between costumes. Graphics and art style are nice and distinct, plus they are probably the only reason you considered getting the game in the first place. BALAN WONDERWORLD can also be played in 2 player co-operative local mode, with one player controlling Leo and the other one controls Emma. Combining the abilities of two different costumes opens new paths in the Wonderworld. As far as the cost goes, this homage to PlayStation 2 platformers should really be a cheaper title than 59,99€, as it does not offer too much content, except for the costumes you wear during the game. There are cheaper and, more important, better platformers available out there…

Pumpkin Jack
…and here is already one of them. Developed by Nicolas Meyssonnier and published by Headup, Pumpkin Jack was first released on Steam on the 23rd of October 2020. It was released on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 on the 24th of February this year, and this is the version we are reviewing here.

Pumpkin Jack is a spooky scary 3D platformer in which you embody Jack, the Mythical Pumpkin Lord! Dive into an epic adventure through otherworldly landscapes and help the Evil annihilate the Good!

We are not really close to Halloween, actually we could not be more far from it, but if you crave those times then Pumpkin Jack is the right way to go. It is an awesome 3D action hack’n’slash platformer that is very much worth your attention. The game has a colourful cartoon setting in which you travel through environments that feature vibrant colours and great atmospheres. Scattered around the landscapes are powerful enemies and you will have to master your skills to survive battles against them. Pumpkin Jack also features some puzzle elements with interesting puzzles that focus on physics. Helping you on your way are different companions that assist with, e.g., long range attacks. Nicolas Meyssonnier’s developing was most probably inspired by classical PlayStation-era platformers (MediEvil comes to mind), and that is not a bad thing. Pumpking Jack could last a bit longer, but it is overall greatly designed and has fun encounters. It never gets boring and there are also collectables to… collect? Pumpkin Jack only fails with its replay value, since there is no point getting back to it once you finish the game’s campaign and gather all there is to 100% it. I recommend the game to all fans of action platformers, and it is a must try for every gamer when it goes on sale. Four out of five scythes!

Space Otter Charlie
Space Otter Charlie was released on the 18th of March 2021 and it is a puzzle platformer developed by Wayward Distractions. Published by The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild, in Space Otter Charlie you join Charlie and his ragtag team of sea mammals as they jump, float, and rocket through Otter Space in Zero-G.

With humanity gone, it is up to the otters to save animal-kind from an inhospitable Earth. Join Charlie and his ragtag crew of critters on a daring mission through Otter Space as they search for a new planet to call home. Explore derelict space stations, battle unhinged robots, and enjoy some otterly terrific puns as you jump, float, and fly through over a dozen levels of furry fun.

Space Otter Charlie is a great looking and very addictive game. It is an enjoyable puzzle platformer that gets more and more challenging from start to finish. The gameplay mechanics of moving Charlie are unique and easy to learn. Levels are well designed and full of enemies you need to overcome with a bunch of different weapons. The replayability here is a problem since the reasons for replaying once you finish it are pretty scarce. Maybe if you are an achievement hunter and still need to get some achievements you did not get on your first playthrough. The price is accessible and I would say it is worth every penny. You have to get it if you are a fan of puzzle platformers, as it is unique and very well made, and I recommend it to children of all ages.

Tinker Racers
Tinker Racers was already released on Steam on the 12th of August 2020, by being playable on the 1st March as an Early Access title, but was just recently made available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch consoles. We are reviewing the PlayStation 4 version of this survival racing party game. Drive mini RC cars through tracks built around the house with common, everyday items. Forget the finishing line and just try to stay in sight!

The game is not about reaching the finishing line at all. In this survival racing party game, the challenge is to stay in sight on chaotic miniature tracks. You want to be leading the race to be the camera target. Especially because everyone that leaves the camera dies!

A tribute by two Codemasters’ Micro Machines fans, Tinker Racers is a fun racing game, that gets even more fun when playing with other people – besides single player races local multiplayer is also available, where up to four friends can join forces or compete with each other. The game was made with the Unity engine, and the first thing you are going to do is complete a tutorial track. It is nothing complicated, it just reveals you are doing well when the other cars disappear from screen. You need to score five points, and then you are off to more racing choices. Available are Campaign mode in which you need to win matches to unlock more tracks, Free for All where there is no score just all around fun, Single Race and lastly Time Attack. The gameplay is great as the controls are very responsive and you get used to them in a flash. You drive with precision and every move you do responds very well. Instead of the R2 button that in most instances accelerates, here you accelerate with the X button and you drive in reverse by pressing the square button. The tracks are build around different rooms – Bedroom, Kitchen and Office, and they all have some hazards that you can hit on them. Every room has six track variations, which totals in eighteen tracks altogether. I wish there were more than three areas available, as it would made the game more interesting. But all in all, Tinker Racers is, again, a fun game that is also very cheap. Get it if you want to relive some nostalgic retro Micro Machines moments.