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Co-Optimized: Badland: Game of the Year Edition

Badland: Game of the Year Edition makes its PC, Mac, Linux and PSN debut this week, and these flappy furballs don't stand much of a chance when it comes to surviving a fairy tale forest full of deadly traps and machines. But maybe a little four player action is the thing that helps these creatures see their way through to the end. 


Previously released for tablets and mobile devices, Badland is a sort of physics puzzle platforming game with deceptively simple controls and extremely challenging gameplay. The Game of the Year Edition, which features upgraded graphics and gameplay, debuted this week for PC, Mac, and Linux this week alongside the PS3, PS4, and Vita. The game will also be coming to Xbox One and Wii U, so it will pretty much be available everywhere, making now the perfect time to check it out.

In Badland, you play as a furry clone. There's only one control besides direction is holding down a button to flap its little wings to take flight. However, it's less like a bird gliding through the air, and more like a round furball with tiny arm-like wings tirelessly flapping to get by and rolling when necessary. You get a lot of vertical lift, but maneuvering through mazes and hitting intended targets is very tricky.

Players have to use this awkward movement system to make their way across a beautiful forest decorated with vivid colors along with machinery and other obstacles that threaten to crush or impede your little clone. Players often have to race the screen by not falling too far behind in addition to dodging deadly gears, swords, boulders and whatever else the game throws in your way. Alice in Wonderland-like power-ups can be found along the way, to make the clone shrink, grow larger, speed up or slow down. If you're skilled, or lucky, you can hit some bundles to free additional clones to join you on your journey. Maybe a few of them might even make it to the end of the level.

Cooperative gameplay ups Badland's intensity several notches. A total of four players can come together to solve 100 different levels. Although, playing alongside friends is often less about teamwork and more about players frantically trying to survive, there's great fun to be had in the chaos. Power-up apply to all clones, no matter who picks it up, and the level continues as long as at least one clone survives. So, one possible strategy is to have one player go for speed and distance while the other do their best to pick everything up. Hitting a clone bundle brings back all the players that were lost along the way.

By staying together and hitting loads of clone bundles, players can use their overwhelming numbers to overcome obstacles like levers that need weight to push down. At the same time, having a ton of clones on the screen adds to the sense of madness. But that's all part of the game. Create a ton of clones, get through the level as best you can, and whatever doesn't get ground up by the level adds to your score.

But whether you're playing solo or as part of a clone quartet, Badland can be extremely difficult. Players must compete against the game's speed, awkward controls, narrow dynamic passages, and a series of deadly traps. Those that can make it through the gauntlet together and come out with a high score can revel in a deep sense of accomplishment that can be repeated 99 more times with even more difficult puzzles.

There's nothing like the thrill of competitive multiplayer, but sometimes it's better to kick back and play alongside your friends and family instead of against them. With Co-Optimized, we highlight and discuss games that are best played together.

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