Balan Wonderworld Balan Wonderworld

Gaming

Balan Wonderworld review: A theater for young ages

Facing the reality behind the curtains

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Have you ever had those moments in your younger years that hurt you a ton? Have they also happened as you got older and a bit wiser? Such is life on our own planet Earth: full of ups and downs. With each moment, we learn new things about ourselves and from our own shortcomings to become better people. However, there are times when things get too overwhelming.

We all need an escape, no matter how young or old we might be. For the older ones, it’s having some time alone, watching movies or TV shows. With the younger generation, it’s playing video games or window shopping online. For our good friends Leo or Emma, their daring escape from their problems led them to the mysterious world of Balan Wonderworld.

I decided to give this game a shot, seeing as it’s one of those less-hyped titles from Square Enix. I want to know what it could offer to a semi-casual player like myself when I need stress relief. Also, Square Enix loves to draw you in with some lore in between to keep you hooked from start to end.

So, what exactly is happening here?

Balan Wonderworld starts off with a story that provides little context to the main characters. Essentially, you play as either Leo or Emma, two children experiencing some personal troubles. I decided to play as Leo mostly because his opening cutscene was him dancing on the street, which is quite relatable. Apparently, in Leo’s case, a group of equally skilled dancers took notice, but he just shunned them away for unexplainable reasons.

Eventually, he and Emma find themselves in this mysterious theater guarded by Balan, a magician-like figure. According to the game’s lore, the theater only shows up to those who are experiencing troubles in their lives. I guess you could consider Leo/Emma extremely lucky, but they’re also confused as to why they’re in the theater. A few moments later, they find themselves in a magical world behind the theater — essentially pulling a Narnia on you.

Balan Wonderworld

Leo in the Island of Tims

You may be wondering how all of this just happened, and I’m here to tell you that I have no idea. In its early stages, the game doesn’t explain to you a lot of details in hopes of putting the pieces of the story together. As I progressed through the story later on, I’m still trying to understand how these things happened. Not the kind of start I was expecting.

The simplest gameplay mechanic for Square Enix

After the intro cutscene, you find yourself on the Island of Tims, which is pretty empty to start. It’s mostly just grassland with some flowers, lakes, and bridges. Eventually, you will slowly rebuild the Tims Tower, which doesn’t seem that important initially. Part of the rebuild involves the inhabitants of the island: the Tims which aids you for the main completion quest.

Now, this platforming game features twelve Chapters, each with two levels and a boss fight. In all the levels, you only ever need to press one button to get through the entire game: the X button. See, every other button and trigger on your controller allows you to jump and platform around — something the X button does anyway. However, the X button is this game’s primary action button because of another gameplay mechanic.

Collect-a-thon Platformer

In each level, Leo/Emma will collect a set of costumes that grant them special abilities. From jump attacks to increased air time, these costumes allow you to explore the game’s vast stages to look for collectibles for completion. As mentioned earlier, almost all of the abilities are bound to the X button — something you don’t really see with Square Enix’s other prominent titles.

Balan Wonderworld

Some of the costumes you will collect throughout the game

Apart from the costumes, you will also collect Drops, Tim Eggs and Balan Statues in each stage. Collecting Drops allows you to grow your Tims to grant you boosts when playing every stage. Meanwhile, collecting a certain number of Balan Statues opens the next set of Chapters and worlds to explore.

As somebody who is fond of stage-by-stage platforming, this was pretty standard stuff even in an open-world setting. Personally, I found myself getting side-tracked with all the collectibles if I wanted to progress further into the game. However, it also makes the game roughly easy to breeze by when you’re not out to complete it. In essence, I felt it doesn’t motivate you enough to complete it 100 percent.

Uncovering your troubles and rising above them

Let’s tackle what I think is the main reason why you found yourself platforming in Balan’s magical world. I mentioned earlier that the character you control is going through some personal issues, and that the magical world showed up for them because of it. With each Chapter, Leo/Emma encounters people who also have undergone some life problems, as well.

Balan Wonderworld

One of the main boss fights in the game

Before each boss fight, a cutscene introduces you to the main story of each person you encounter in the Chapter’s stages. Essentially, it highlights the following aspects: how they started, the rise, and the fall (and eventual shift to the dark side). You are basically tasked to free these people from the Negati, a demon-like presence that is the manifestation of their troubles.

The happy ending in one of the early chapters of the game

After beating each boss, another cutscene starts that shows an epilogue of sorts, detailing the events that happened after you free people of the Negati. You see people get back on their feet, or become more open to other people about their interests. Also, each ending cutscene starts off with a performance with the AI versions of the costumes you collect. I found it quite cheesy and a little extra in some instances.

A game that doesn’t explain much when it should

Everything about Balan Wonderworld made me ask myself, “why is this all happening?” To be honest, I felt that nothing about the game was explained properly the moment you start playing. From the simplistic gameplay mechanic to the storylines in each chapter, it all feels like it lacks purpose. Furthermore, even your role in lifting these people up from their troubles isn’t explained properly.

While playing through this game, I got the feeling that this was intended for kids even if some of the issues tackled here applied to adults. In its raw gameplay alone, it’s simple to understand and easy to navigate that even five year olds will get through the mechanics easily. The collect-a-thon element only somewhat adds a level of depth to the overall gameplay.

Gameplay mechanics aside, the entire story behind Balan Wonderworld just happens with little to no context or purpose. You aimlessly go into each Chapter, uncover the story behind each character, beat the demon inside them, and they’re freed of the negativity inside them. If you’re a child playing this game, it’s something that you’ll enjoy. As an adult, however, it doesn’t do much to draw you in for long.

Gaming

PlayStation VR 2 could be 4K with gaze-tracking tech

Hope they have enough stocks…

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Photo by Uriel Soberanes on Unsplash

Excited for the PlayStation VR 2? A fresh leak regarding foveated virtual reality headset points to the next-gen accessory being a compelling head-mounted display — and far more impressive than the predecessor. Sony has been teasing the launch for quite some time and even left many breadcrumbs for enthusiasts.

However, the report today isn’t official. According to Upload VR, Sony recently shared more details of the next-gen PlayStation VR with the company’s partners. Topping the list of details is a 4,000 x 2,040-pixel resolution, which gives it a stunning total of 8.16 million pixels.

In terms of rendering, it will work smarter by utilizing foveated rendering. That means that anything in the users’ peripheral vision that isn’t being looked at directly will be rendered in lower quality. The new technology will help save computing resources, delivering a better experience.

A single USB-C connection to the front of the PS5 is expected to power the unit. Another welcome touch is inside-out tracking. Now that Sony is ditching the PS Move controllers, the headset’s onboard cameras will be used to track the position of the new orb-shaped controllers instead.

The accessory seems like a perfect companion for the PlayStation 5 and is well equipped to compete. Although, the supply of PlayStation 5 has been severely hit, and the Japanese giant is expecting delays to go well into 2022. The company hasn’t even given us a release date yet — we know only that we won’t be seeing it by the end of 2021.

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Ubisoft will focus on delivering a more free-to-play experience

A business decision to boost their popular franchises

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Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Have you ever wanted to play Assassin’s Creed for free if you’re new to it? Or, any popular franchise from Ubisoft for that matter? Well, they’ve been talking about it and their latest “announcement” will shed some light on it.

In a recent earnings call, Ubisoft CFO Frederick Duguet noted a couple of things about their beloved “triple-A/AAA” franchises. He mentioned that their strategy of releasing three to four premium titles each year isn’t a proper indicator of company value. Furthermore, he even said that the company earns more from in-game purchases on free-to-play titles.

Moving forward, he said that Ubisoft will focus on widening the audience for their existing titles by “making them free at the entry level.” In essence, the company could possibly offer newer games within those franchises as “free-to-play.” However, it doesn’t mean that they won’t produce single-purchase premium titles.

It’s a good thing to note that they’ve already done this for their latest Tom Clancy’s The Division title, Heartland. Who knows, maybe the next Assassin’s Creed or Watch Dogs title could follow suit.

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Gaming

The realme 8 dares to be more

You’re in for a treat

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realme 8

realme has been bringing in the big guns with their smartphone releases. But, it doesn’t come unwarranted when they’ve been stacking good specs instead of just gaming features. They get it: you want to do more than just play games with their phone line-up. Which is why, they released the realme 8 series.

The realme 8 is pretty much the little bro of the realme 8 Pro. It’s got most of the bells and whistles without the big bro powers. So, how does the realme still stack up to be the best all-around smartphone out there for you?

realme 8

Stunning looks that might fool you

The realme 8 has a 6.5-inch AMOLED display with 180Hz Touch Sampling rate. If touch sampling rate isn’t a metric you’re familiar with, it’s your display’s responsiveness to touch. Refresh rate is a whole different metric; it measures how well your display renders frames per second. Both are tangent features of the display. So, they’re different but, equally as important for gaming on your phone.

If you like strutting in style with your phone, the realme 8 teeters into keeping it flashy yet low-key. The phone features a reflective panel with “DARE TO LEAP” across its logo corner. Plus, realme sticks to classy colors with either Cyber Silver or Cyber Black available for the realme 8.

realme 8

The feelsgoodman specs

Let’s cut to the chase. The realme 8 is a great phone. The phone is decked out with an MTK Helio G95 octa-core processor, which pretty much grants the phone its unapologetic great performance. Whether I was browsing social media, binge-watching videos, or playing games, this phone didn’t stutter once.

realme 8

The phone delivers on buttery-smooth graphics. And, games like League of Legends: Wild Rift, Mobile Legend: Bang Bang, PUBG Mobile, and Sky run smoothly on the realme 8. But, are we really meant to be surprised by that? With the phone’s 8G RAM and 128G internal storage, lags just don’t exist in the same sentence. On top of all that, it manages to stay lightweight. The realme 8 weighs only 177g which is pretty impressive with all the features it packs.

realme 8

Battery can take a beating

Yes, it’s almost criminal. The realme 8 comes with a 30W Dart Charge brick. Which ideally charges the phone up to 50 percent within a matter of 26 minutes. I know what you’re thinking. This sounds too good to be true. Well, unlike the stacked disappointments of the past year, the realme 8 pulls through. It went from zero to 20 percent within 10 minutes which is pretty quick.

realme 8

With a 5,000mAh battery inside, the realme 8 can survive well over a day. It came in handy when I’d accidentally left it out uncharged overnight and still used it the next day. But, I’m guessing it would have been a whole different story had I thrown it into ungodly playing and binge-watching hours.

After a full day of gameplay, binge-watching, podcasts, music, and social media shenanigans, the phone gets close to 15 percent at the end of the day. This is impressive with most phones tossed my way with charging alerts by the tail end of my day.

So, if you’re like me, this phone is pretty reliable. It can take a beating and then some. And, when it does need charging, it won’t take long before you get enough juice in to use it again. It’s good to note that it also supports 15W PD charge, lending versatility on its side.

realme 8

Not just a gaming phone

The realme 8 is decked out with all the features you want from a gaming phone but rounds it all out with amazing smartphone features. So, calling this a gaming phone doesn’t feel fair considering it does well even outside the gaming-perfect specs.

One feature that often gets left out with your typical gaming-centric phone, would be the camera. As for this phone, it’s got an AI Quad camera setup. It’s got a 64MP wide-angle lens, an 8MP ultra-wide lens, a 2MP macro lens, and a second 2MP depth sensor. On the front, the realme 8 has a 16MP shooter with panorama capabilities.

Panorama on the realme 8

Low lighting is just the bane of every mobile phone photography’s existence. If lighting isn’t on your side, most phones will struggle. The realme 8 is sadly not an exception. But, when the sun’s on your side, the photos are pretty good.

The macro looks decent. Just make sure you flood the room with good lighting!

 

The night mode is good too! Stable hands for this mode is key.

The bokeh mode and wide shots on the phone are detailed. Recording videos doesn’t skimp on the 4k experience which is good too. Overall, the phone delivers on all fronts including its camera features. But if you’re looking for big bro camera stats, you should check out the realme 8 Pro.

realme 8

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The realme 8 ticks all the boxes of a quality smartphone. Its got great performance across the board takes really great pictures, has a smooth and responsive display, and lasts for quite some time. And, even if you run out of battery life, its Dart Charge won’t have you away for long.

Overall, this smartphone offers a daring deal. It gives you everything you need and want–and then some more. And, with its PhP 13,990 price tag, it’s the smartphone to beat. Better yet, you can avail of the PhP 1,000 worth of discount on the realme 8 during the flash sale on Lazada starting May 12!

Buy from Lazada

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