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YMMV / Balan Wonderworld

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  • Angst? What Angst?: The novel tones this down by having the characters talk about their problems instead of everyone dancing after a boss, but, in the video game, beating the secondary human characters' monstrous boss forms causes all of them to suddenly have the strength to face and overcome any trauma or internal turmoil they had, regardless of how severe the trauma or turmoil may have appeared.
  • Awesome Art: The art style and character designs are wonderful to look at, especially in the cutscenes.
  • Awesome Music: Given the game is helmed by the co-creators of Sonic the Hedgehog and NiGHTS into Dreams…, it should come to no one’s surprise that the soundtrack is simply wonderful.
    • Corn for Days (Chapter 1's theme) is a catchy and calm theme perfectly suitable of the first chapter’s peaceful vibes.
    • Balan’s Bout is a joyous big band track that perfectly fits Balan’s bombastic and playful nature.
  • Bile Fascination: People now mostly look into the game to see how it ended up so heavily criticized after being highly anticipated previously, mostly in regards to its questionable design choices.
  • "Common Knowledge": It's often believed that you have to get a perfect score in the non-Balan's Bouts minigames if you want to earn a trophy for them. Fortunately, that's not the case, as a perfect score will simply just give you more drops instead.
  • Enjoy the Story, Skip the Game:
    • While the gameplay is middling at best and genuinely bad at worst, something everyone seems to agree on is that the CGI cutscenes are excellent, and the short but sad backstories behind the bosses are good at getting sympathy. Some have gone as far as to say Naka should have just made an animated movie.
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    • It's generally agreed by those who have read the book that it has a much better story than the game itself, as not only does it tell more about Balan, Lance, and Wonderworld, but it also fleshes out Emma, Leo, and the other humans, which is quite jarring compared to the game, which didn't have that much of a story. In fact, many recommend that people interested in the game's premise just buy the novel instead. It helps that it's much cheaper and costs $10 (albeit digital only), when the game originally costed $60 before it was permanently slashed to $40.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: The Farmer, Jose, has become this thanks to a combination of Memetic Mutation crossing over with Sneedposting and Memetic Badass because of the title of his chapter being "The Man Who Rages Against the Storm".
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: The ending of the game is all fine and good, with everyone leaving Wonderworld happy with their dilemmas solved... except we completely failed to save Lance, and no one seems to remember. The novel also ends with Balan being hit with a (possibly unintentional) Breaking Speech from Lance, warning him his love of humans will ultimately lead to his downfall and there's nothing he can do about it. That's the last we see of those two.
  • Fridge Brilliance:
    • Why do the bosses have the powers of the different costumes of each world? Because the creatures that inhabit each world are the creations of the traumatized humans, representing their hopes and fears.
    • In regarding the bosses, Cass doesn't take the form of, say, a car, she takes the form of a cat with a clock in her... because she hasn't been able to move past the moment of the traffic accident with her pet. It could also represent her desire to literally turn back the clock and change what happened.
      • The Nega Bosses themselves, typically taking on elements of the event that caused the Victim of the Week so much grief and being stated as having no memory of themselves in that moment, seem representative of a very real fear for those who have suffered forms of psychological trauma. Mainly, that they will lash out at others during an episode where the trauma resurfaces. Fighting the Nega Boss helps the victims calm down in a safer environment until they can gather themselves and be properly reassured.
    • It's demonstrated that if people are pushed past the brink and attacked by the Negati, they turn into Nega Bosses and lose themselves to their grief. In that way, Lance is Balan's Nega Boss. He is Balan, pushed past the brink of despair and warped into a nightmarish visage that borrows design elements the creatures that represent the moment he lost himself; the Negati.
    • The costumes featured in this promotional artwork are chosen deliberately - they're the signature costumes for each of the game's 12 Inhabitants!
  • Funny Moments: Box Fox, a costume that exists in a corner off on its own. It allows the user to become a fox mage that turns into a box "when it feels like it." The space you obtain it from is designed so that if leave it on and don't stand still and wait for it to change to get a feel for the timing, you'll turn into a box on the way back through the portal, slide down a ramp and into a Bottomless Pit. It'd be frustrating if it weren't seemingly designed to have as little consequence as possible.
  • Game-Breaker:
    • The bubble blower outfit and its bubble summoning ability in Chapter 2 is not particularly special in single player, but as Johnny of SomecallmeJohnny points out in his review of the game, it's a very different story in co-op mode. If two players both get the bubble blower outfit, they can each summon a bubble back to back, and given the lack of cooldown period between bubbles, this can allow the two players to summon bubbles endlessly, allowing them to fly and outright skip over large portions of the levels.
    • The Frost Fairy costume obtained in Chapter 8 lets you take seven steps upwards in air, and can be used to obtain almost any trophy.
  • Genius Bonus: Attilio is referred to as "Pensive Pierrot." Pierrot is a clown character from Commedia dell'Arte who has an unrequited love for someone, usually Colombina. Attilio is afraid the princess will show him just about as much affection as Colombina does to Pierrot.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: One of the fake positive reviews of the game on websites like Metacritic listed that Balan has suffered a tragic fate. While this review was most likely a troll at work, that bit about a tragic fate was true. The negative reception of the game would result in Yuji Naka leaving Square Enix, taking down Balan Company along the way, making it highly unlikely Balan will ever make an appearance again.
  • Heartwarming Moments:
    • The ending. As Leo and Emma leave the park, they give Balan a group hug, during which Balan sheds a Single Tear and takes off his hat. Afterwards, Leo makes up with his friends, and Emma learns that the maids who she thought were badmouthing her were actually planning a surprise birthday party for her.
    • The credits. All the victims that Leo and Emma save have become good friends. One particularly sweet moment shows some of them admiring Iben's baby. And in the end, Leo and Emma meet again and celebrate their reunion alongside the other characters.
  • Just Here for Godzilla:
    • Many were attracted to the game just for the reunion of two of Sonic's co-creators: programmer Yuji Naka and artist Naoto Ohshima.
    • As for the contents of the game itself, even many detractors for the game have expressed how much they like Balan himself (whether it be due to his design or the idea of his character), even if they like nothing else in the game, wishing he had a more prominent role in it - or even that he were the main character instead - and citing him as one of the game's true positives. Especially since he is the closest thing to a proper Spiritual Successor to NiGHTS as a character.
  • Memetic Badass: Thanks to a mixture of Snapcube's reaction to the farmer's dance, the Sneed's Feed and Seed meme and the surprisingly epic name of "The Man Who Rages Against The Storm", Jose Gallard has been getting this treatment, being portrayed as a very powerful farmer determined to grow his farm that can take on Vergil.
  • Moe: The Tims, fluffy little Waddling Heads who follow the player around and are literally made of positive energy.
  • Narm:
    • Whenever a boss is defeated, the player character and the character whose trauma they've helped overcome will immediately break out into a huge, J-pop dance numbernote  with super obvious motion capture. Not only is this ridiculous in and of itself but becomes extra hilarious when it happens with characters like Jose Gallard who looks completely out of place during these sequences.
    • Cal Suresh's main motivation is that...he lost a game of chess. It makes a bit more sense when you read the novel and know he blames himself for his wife dying, but it's still pretty ridiculous, especially since the game never hints at this subplot in any way.
  • Narm Charm: Characters wear goofy costumes rather than actually transform into the creature that gives them power. Little neon baby chicks called Tims follow you everywhere and help you fight and explore. The climax of a level is a big dance party, which gives the person that level is based on the strength to face their problems outside of the dream world.
  • Nausea Fuel: A few specific levels note  include an unusual visual effect where the world visibly bends and warps based around where the camera is, which has caused motion sickness for some people.
  • Never Live It Down: The cutscene with Fiona in Chapter 2, showing the dolphin knocking out Fiona's air tank (or yanking it out in the novel) before staring at her with demonic eyes as she seemingly drowns. Due to how how immensely jarring this moment is this early on in the game, many players interpret the dolphin as being intentionally malicious, which isn't too far-fetched considering that dolphins can be aggressive to people. The game heavily implies later on that the dolphin never intended to hurt Fiona on purpose, and the whole scene of the "evil" dolphin is actually Fiona's memory of the event twisted by grief after she nearly drowned.
    • In a more meta sense, Yuji Naka's infamous claim of how this game was going to be his 'one chance' to make a new 3D platformer for Square Enix. Not only would the game come out to scathing critical and commercial reception, but Naka himself would leave Square shortly after the release of this game.
    • The final boss of the game originally induced flashing effects which can cause seizures. While it was patched out before release, it only harmed the games reputation even further.
  • Porting Disaster: The Nintendo Switch port has been noted to have massive performance problems that, combined with the downgraded visuals and gameplay, drag the game down to near-unplayable levels. According to one of the developers, this might be because of the Switch's hardware.
  • Power-Up Letdown: The vast majority of costumes fall into this. Many of them have abilities that a) are only useful in specific areas or when interacting with specific gimmicks, b) are actively outclassed even in their niche by something else, or c) provide a benefit so small it might as well not exist. The fact that some of them take away your ability to jump, and the limited selection of costumes you can have on hand makes it possible to replace a decent costume with a useless one, makes it even more of an issue.
  • Scrappy Mechanic: The general consensus is that while the game has potential, it is bogged down by loads and loads of baffling and occasionally borderline insane design choices that only serve to sour the experience and frustrate players.
    • Just like Sonic the Hedgehog, a single action is tied to every button in the controller. This also applies to the costumes that don't have the ability to jump. Did you get costumes like Dainty Dragon, Sickle Slinger or Pumpkin Puncher? Well, guess what: you can't jump with those. Better have another costume with the ability to jump as a reserve.
      • Notably, the non-costumed player characters can jump around just fine, meaning that the no-jump costumes actually take away the character's ability to jump in a platformer. Players are also unable to freely take costumes off, so, if the player is left in a situation with only costumes that prevent jumping, then the player can easily become stuck and be unable to finish the current level, without restarting the whole level from the beginning. This method of control is even applied to menus, meaning that there's no simple "exit" or "back" button for menus.
    • Something as simple as getting costumes can be a pain in the ass. Since they're treated as a necessary power-up, you'd expect to get them so easily like every other platformer, but in this game, you need to get a key to open the crystal containing the costume, and this applies to every costume in the game. No key? No costume for you.note  Most of the time the keys are in close proximity to the costumes and respawn, which makes this mechanic even more pointless.
    • You can hold three costumes at a time, and every time you collect a costume, the costume in the third slot gets replaced by the new one. However, the game doesn't stack a costume you already collected, meaning if you collect a costume you already own, it will take up another slot in the costume select.
    • Balan's Bout in particular is greatly loathed for a few reasons. First, it requires a perfect score to get the trophy, and you have to restart the level if you mess up. Secondly, it's only a Quick Time Event, so there's hardly any player input. And thirdly, there are many, many Balan's Bouts, so you have to play a QTE again and again, which quickly gets repetitive. And Balan's Bout is the only time when Balan, the titular character, is playable!
    • Some of the statues require a certain costume that's not available in the world you're in. This requires you to either backtrack to the nearest save point to change it in the wardrobe there or go to that world to get it. It should be noted you can have more than one in the wardrobe, meaning stocking up on them can be done to alleviate this.
    • Any costume where the power activates "when it feels like" rather than being tied to a button press. This can lead to scenarios such as randomly transforming into a sliding box while running around narrow walkways over a bottomless pit.
  • Signature Scene: The Farmer's dance montage at the end of the first world is generally the one most remembered, as it's the first time when the game truly shows its hand and when players (most commonly those Let's Playing and recording it) start to realize what exactly they're in for.
    • Gameplay-wise, the introduction of the Box Fox would be the first real taste of the more absurd costume powers featured in the game.
  • Special Effect Failure: The game has what can only be called negative draw distance, where the characters vanish the closer you get to them. The novel implies that they are illusions, as there are moments when Leo tries to go towards certain characters only for them to disappear into thin air. Given that there's nothing in the game explaining this, you'd be forgiven for finding this odd.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song:
  • Tainted by the Preview:
    • Despite trailers and previews focusing exclusively on the puzzle-based platforming and costume upgrades, the game's demo quickly raised concerns. Players were disappointed with the slow movement speed and the fact that every button (save for the shoulder buttons, which are used to switch costumes) is mapped to the same action even in menus, which made it so that each costume has only one ability. The costumes with abilities that don't involve jumping drew particular ire, as those costumes force the player to remain grounded when using them. There are also complaints about poor framerates, blurry textures (both of which are exacerbated on the Nintendo Switch version), UV mapping issues, and several other things that hamper the experience.
    • Prior to the demo, some fans were already wary of Naoto Oshima's Arzest being involved as the main developers for the game, seeing as they were responsible for making games of middling quality, particularly in the Yoshi's Island and Pikmin series.
    • Some fans were even wary of Yuji Naka's own involvement with this game. While some fans are grateful to see him working with Square Enix to create a Spiritual Successor to a classic and beloved Sega franchise in NiGHTS into Dreams…, other fans believe that he was at his best when he was still working at Sega and Sonic Team, and that his post-Sonic Team ventures have mostly consisted of outdated ideas and gameplay for modern games, which has ended up being a large criticism with Balan Wonderworld.
  • They Copied It, So It Sucks!:
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Many players were incredibly disappointed that Balan himself is only "playable" through bonus stages that are essentially nothing but a series of quick-time events, with his appearances outside of the bonus stages being largely limited to the cutscenes. Some have even expressed a preference to have him as the main playable character instead of Leo and Emma or wished that he had been integrated into the gameplay more, especially since they were largely interested in the game because of him.
      • Balan's true appearance without his hat could also count. Rather than keeping his majestic dreadlocks and dark face with a big, cheerful grin, instead he just looks like a normal, very pale human with a far more plain hairstyle. You'd be forgiven for thinking he had someone else's head stapled onto his neck.
    • Lance, the main antagonist. He has a pretty cool design, and the novel reveals that he's the original Balan and created the current Balan to balance out the negativity that had overcome Lance, so this could've led to some interesting in-game interactions between Balan and Lance. But this is never brought up or hinted at in the game, so Lance just ends up as a generic threat. The game doesn't even mention his name until the latter portions of the story.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: People who know of the story through the novel or by searching online often feel the in-game's presentation of this story is severely lacking.
  • Uncertain Audience: A lot of Yuji Naka's comments regarding design decisions (such as the one-button gameplay, the simplistic level design, the lack of dialogue in the game proper, etc.) point towards this game being aimed at small children. On the other hand, tutorial dialogue being Dummied Out, certain features requiring a guide in order to unlock them, the story needing a novel in order to comprehend, and virtual lack of advertising (instead letting Yuji Naka and Square Enix's name recognition do most of the talking) point more towards this being a game for older players that grew up in the Fourthnote  and Fifthnote  Generations of Gaming.
  • Viewer Species Confusion: Based on Anjellica's Japanese name (Jelly Dolphin), she seems to have been intended to be a cross between a dolphin and a jellyfish (more specifically, she's a combination of the Dynamic Dolphin and Jellyjolt costumes). But she has some traits, such as her frilled fins and sharp teeth, that make this difficult to tell. YouTuber LS Mark even calls Anjellica an octopus, and calls the game out for not making Anjellica a dolphin, when technically, it did.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Most also agree that the in-game visuals are quite nice and well done on every port except the Nintendo Switch. The opening cinematic, where Balan meets the player characters, in particular seems to get the most praise.
  • The Woobie: Every human inhabitant that becomes a Nega Boss is this, as they fall into a realistic Despair Event Horizon, some of which are brought about by pure circumstance. They become Iron Woobies after their Nega Boss is defeated, as they overcome said despair and move on.


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