A few years ago, I played Badland on mobile by my fiancee’s recommendation, and I had tons of fun – it’s a great game. Beautiful art, simple controls yet challenging levels, and when you play it you really get into the state of flow as you try to make perfect runs. So I was really curious when I learned that the game would get a console/PC port, titled ‘Game of the Year Edition’. And thanks to it appearing among the PSN+ games, I got to try the port out.
Ports between mobile and PC/consoles are an interesting thing. Due to the specifics of the two mediums, you can’t port everything. For example, games like Hearthstone, Thomas Was Alone, Limbo, – they all work quite well with the mobile format. But you wouldn’t port a game like Starcraft to mobile without a full mechanics redesign, – as with the mouse and keyboard missing the game is impossible to play.
Similarly, while there are originally mobile games that work well on ‘big’ platforms, you wouldn’t port the mobile auto-run one-button platformers like Rayman Jungle Run or Rayman Fiesta Run to consoles/PC. Rayman Run games base their design on the specifics of the mobile genre and are fun when playing in your hand, but if you put those games to a medium that’s got a game like Rayman Legends? I’m sorry, it just wouldn’t work.
With Badland being a great one-button game, I was really interested to see how that style of gameplay would fare on consoles. Sadly, it’s something I will never learn, as the console/PC version are not one-button games. In addition to the button that you have to hold to control your altitude, you also need to control the flight direction (and speed alongside it) with the stick/D-Pad. And all the levels of the game got tons of little changes to accommodate the new control scheme. Another big change that I’ve noticed is that clones don’t autocorrect their course and speed to group up with the main ‘bird’, you have to do that yourself with the stick.
So I played this adapted to console version of Badland for a while. And it can be infuriating, frustrating, rage-inducing affair. I would be lucky to get just one bird to the end of the level, let alone a bunch of them. So many uncomfortable to maneuver in situations and annoying obstacles, that I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘Is the original game like that as well?’
I downloaded the mobile Badland on my phone again. And it was so smooth and so nice. Yes, I would fail, sometimes a lot, but it felt fair. By adding those additional means of controlling speed and direction in the console version, and modifying the levels to use those changes, the developers have accidentally added a lot more challenges (even if the basic structures of levels don’t change) and moments that feel unfair or annoying.
And I can’t say that I dislike the console Badland. It’s still Badland and it’s still got those design elements that make it an enjoyable game, even if some of them are hidden behind uncomfortable control changes.
But I will say this: I think the original mobile Badland is a strictly better game than the console version. So now the question becomes: would the console version play well with the original gameplay?
Well, it’s clear that the developers thought no, otherwise they wouldn’t have done these changes. I think, however, that the answer is yes. The game would play better with the original controls and levels. BUT. Resources would have to be spent on features that would make the game very distinct from its mobile counterpart.
This includes things like:
– Level Editor. Which as far as I understand is present in the Steam version, but not on consoles (it should be there as well, though, even mobile version has a level editor now).
– Online Multiplayer. And not just 4-player multiplayer, but 16 or 32 player, providing fun chaotic experience that the mobile version can’t.
– New additional levels designed specifically with consoles and longer playing sessions in mind.
– New gameplay modes (endurance mode, never-ending mode, or whatever else seems fun).
So, yes, if Badland would have been a strict direct port from mobile to consoles, it most likely would feel lacking. But had it been the original game with new additional features that up everything to 11, then it really would have been Game of the Year edition. As it stands, it’s… pretty ok. If you’re interested in trying Badland out, I would really recommend getting it on your phone.
But this whole situation got me thinking, what makes a good mobile-to-consoles port? Specifically, a good mobile-to-consoles port of a game that’s particularly tuned for touch handheld gameplay? What are examples of such games and ports? Do you really need to change the core gameplay, or the port can be good by adding features surrounding that gameplay?
It’s not something I’ve researched a lot and I’m really interested in gathering feedback on the matter, so all comments are welcome! And if you have played both phone and console versions of Badland and disagree with my opinion on which version is better (if any), would be very interested to hear that too!
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