vivo v20 Pro vivo v20 Pro

Reviews

vivo V20 Pro review: First time’s already a charm

What it feels like using a vivo phone for the first time

Published

on

It wasn’t too long ago when vivo unveiled the V19 series in the Philippines. Not that we should be surprised, but just a reminder, the past four months weren’t too long ago.

Fast forward today, vivo has finally announced not one, not two, but three new smartphones, pandemic notwithstanding. The V20 series lineup goes like this: the V20 SE, V20, and this one, the V20 Pro. If you’ve been fond of vivo’s V-lineup, they always skip models in odd numbers. This time, they decided to mix things up with an even number — right in time for the year “20”20.

V stands for Very Confusing

If you’re confused among these models, here’s a quick spec comparison.

V20 Pro V20 V20 SE
Processor Snapdragon 765G Snapdragon 720G Snapdragon 665
Display 6.44” AMOLED
HDR10
6.44” AMOLED 6.44” AMOLED
Memory 8GB 8GB 8GB
Storage 128GB 128GB + microSD 128GB + microSD
Network 5G + 4G LTE 4G LTE only 4G LTE only
Rear Cameras 64MP f/1.9 WA
8MP f/2.2 120º UWA
2MP f/2.4 Mono
64MP f/1.9 WA
8MP f/2.2 120º UWA
2MP f/2.4 Mono
48MP f/1.8 WA
8MP f/2.2 120º UWA
2MP f/2.4 Mono
Front Cameras 44MP f/2.0 Wide
8MP f/2.28 105º UWA
44MP f/2.0 Wide 44MP f/2.0 Wide
Battery 4000mAh 4000mAh 4100mAh

Full of Firsts

The V20 Pro may not be vivo’s first 5G smartphone, but it’s currently the world’s slimmest. In fact, it’s even slimmer than its 5G-equipped cousin, the X50 Pro.

Just like how I used a vivo smartphone for the first time, the article headings were (heavily) inspired by BLACKPINK’s tracks that are also from their first ever full album. Coincidentally, Lisa has also endorsed the vivo S7 — which is the Chinese counterpart of the V20 Pro. I digress.

ALSO: This is the first 5G smartphone I’ve ever held and used.

Look so good, yeah, look so sweet

I hope you read that with the tune of BLACKPINK’s Ice Cream. Those iconic lyrics best describe how I feel about this particular piece of hardware.

It’s eye-tricking. The psychedelic back confuses and amuses me at the same time. Depending on one’s source of light, this phone can show shades of orange, red, blue, or pink, with subtle hints of yellow and purple all over it. The warmer side reminds me of a popsicle I used to eat when I was a kid. Thus, it looks good, and sweet — at least in my eyes.

The Sunset Melody variant isn’t bad  at all but it’s simply not my cup of tea. If people love flashy, eye-candy colors, I beg to differ. Other than the difficulty in matching this phone with my usual monochromatic pandemic OOTD, it’s also hard to keep this away from the prying eyes of thieves.

If I had the chance to choose one, I’d simply pick the white-touting Moonlight Sonata colorway because it’s cleaner and the fingerprint smudges will appear less. Although black is my favorite color, Midnight Jazz looks too bland for my liking.

This doesn’t mean I don’t like the phone. I honestly like how it feels in the hand despite being thin. It’s light yet not too slippery nor fragile (unlike me).

Other than that, the stainless steel frame and matte glass back both add premium touches to the phone itself.

Unlike its younger siblings, the 3.5mm audio jack was eliminated from the V20 Pro and was replaced by a SIM tray slot just beside the microphone and USB-C port. I’m not making a big fuss about this as I’ve already transitioned into a more wireless and USB-C ecosystem. But for audiophiles or other people who totally rely on it, this could be a dealbreaker. Don’t fret, vivo has bundled a USB-C to 3.5mm audio jack adapter if you still want that immersive, wired audio experience.

Now that we’re on the topic of speakers, it doesn’t have stereo speakers but its mono speaker is decent and loud — just don’t try to cover it too much with your finger when holding it in landscape mode or you might muffle the whole audio experience.

Love To Hate That Display

Now that I already brought up the topic with V20 and V20 SE, I just don’t understand how vivo decided to bring back these notches over the V19’s punch-hole camera cutout and V17 Pro’s set of pop-up cameras. This even reminds me of the early days of the brand with the vivo V9 and the V11.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love its 6.44-inch AMOLED display that shows deep blacks and vivid colors. It might not be too obvious but the bezels are slimmer than the V20, making its form factor smaller and thinner than the latter. I even tested out V20 Pro’s clear case but it simply wouldn’t fit the V20’s slightly larger and thicker form factor.

Without the presence of a physical fingerprint sensor, the in-display fingerprint scanner is there to save the day. Unlike previous review units I tested, V20 Pro’s reader is fast enough for everyday unlocking. I mean c’mon, vivo brought this technology first with the 2018 APEX phone. There’s no competition but there’s a reason why they should ace this particular technology over other brands.

There’s also a Face Unlock feature but in times like this, it’s best to just use the fingerprint scanner. After all, we’re required to wear face masks and face shields when we’re out and about in public.

Pretty Savage Specs

As stated in the intro, the V20 Pro packs a Snapdragon 765G processor that’s responsible for delivering outstanding CPU and GPU performance. And thanks to this processor, it’s able to bring 5G support to the V20 Pro for a less expensive price tag compared to the pricey SD865 variants.

Of course, we shouldn’t miss playing PUBG especially since BLACKPINK has a collaboration with them.

Most (if not all) phones have DND (Do Not Disturb)  Mode but most of the time, it just doesn’t seem to work especially when playing games. The built-in game manager controls that can be toggled on the upper left corner are handy especially if you want to focus on the game and don’t want to be interrupted by app notifications, messages, and calls.

If you’re gonna ask what’s my favorite feature, it’s a minor addition but the 4D vibration is something I love. It adds an intuitive gaming experience by enhancing the overall vibration feedback of the phone. Haven’t tried all sorts of options since I’m not a professional mobile gamer, but vivo’s In-Game Manager is worth trying out.

I tried taking a break by playing amid the busy workload I have during this aphonecalyptic month full of phone launches and events. My original goal was to just find the BLACKPINK-themed plane. Unfortunately, it never showed up. Instead, I was teamed up with these three random PUBG players from different parts of the world.

All throughout the game, performance was fast and snappy. Although there’s no 120Hz refresh rate (and 240Hz sampling rate), it still performed buttery smooth thanks to its powerful chipset. This proves that you don’t need the highest processor just to play graphics-intensive games. As the photo shows above, the phone supports PUBG’s Ultra frame rate option and HDR resolution.

After a quick gaming session, me and these bunch of strangers that helped each other were able to stay ’til the end and got an imaginary winning chicken for dinner. This circumstance also happened for the first time ever since I started playing this game months ago.

Crazy Over 5G

Although the pandemic is far from over, I was still able to test out 5G speeds in the Metro — and it was insanely fast. It’s even faster than our typical Fiber Internet Plan at home.

Let me open my Instagram first as an early app test. I know this app doesn’t require blazingly-fast data speeds but hey, better to open something first that doesn’t consume all of your data balance 😂

vivo V20 Pro

Fresh from the oven, I was also able to watch BLACKPINK’s first (yes another first in this article) ever Netflix documentary. I completely forgot to download it through our Wi-Fi connection at home but I’m glad 5G saved my day. It took me less than three to five minutes to download this more than 1GB-worth documentary.

You Never Know When It’s Gonna Die

If you’re like me who spends countless of hours listening to music (especially K-Pop), the V20 Pro is a perfect companion for those ultra-long jamming sessions — especially in this pandemic.

While its 4,000mAh battery isn’t as “enormous” as other Android phones, the phone was able to last at least a full day of moderate to heavy usage. Do take note how you use your phones quite often. For me, music playback doesn’t require the screen to be always turned on so it’s still not as power-hungry as when you play games, binge-watch a series, or shoot photos and videos for hours.

There’s more than enough juice left for the day. Mind you, I used this phone the moment I went out of the house at around six in the morning with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Cellular Data toggled on. Since then, I never plugged it in my powerbank to fill up the phone.

While super fast charging isn’t particularly new these days, vivo’s FlashCharge technology sure does the trick of bumping up the battery level from zero to 100 percent in about an hour. I tried testing it out and it took the V20 Pro exactly 58 minutes to charge — which is still fast considering it has a large 4,000mAh battery.

And yes, you heard that right! The 33W vivo FlashCharge adapter is still bundled in the box. 👀

How You Like That Cameras?

This familiar-looking camera cutout made its debut on the vivo X50 Pro — a.k.a the world’s first smartphone with a gimbal camera system. Not to confuse you, but having a similar camera design doesn’t mean it has the same stabilization technology.

For aesthetic purposes, vivo just decided to bring this sophisticated-looking camera placement on their newest S and V series line — and I honestly love how it looks. But do I love how its cameras perform? Tune in to my samples below.

On paper, you get a 64-megapixel f/1.9 wide camera. Other than that, there’s an 8-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide angle camera with a 120-degree FoV. This sensor is also responsible for shooting macro and bokeh shots. The third lens is an additional 2-megapixel f/2.4 mono sensor.

For the most part, the V20 Pro produced great shots

With ample amount of sunlight, the V20 Pro can keep up with most of 2020’s smartphone camera competition.

Wide | 2x Zoom

Its dedicated zoom toggle helped a lot in capturing interesting subjects even from afar.

Ultra-wide | 2x zoom

Restricting the frame by zooming in on the subject can help deliver better photos without ever moving an inch closer to the object itself — just like how I tried not to scare away this stray cat.

Ultra-wide | Wide | 2x Zoom

Even under harsh daylight conditions, the V20 Pro successfully showed photos with great dynamic range, no matter what type of lens you use.

However, the two minor issues I’ve faced are the inconsistencies in detecting the Auto WB (White Balance) and the lack of stabilization when zooming in.

Ultra-wide | Wide | 2x Zoom

As seen from my two pets, it’s pretty evident that ultra-wide shots take warmer photos in contrast to its regular / wide lens.

Ultra-wide | Wide | 2x Zoom

Other than that, zoomed shots taken indoors were a little bit blurry due to the lack of stabilization.

Ultra-wide | Wide | 2x Zoom

But then again, it’s not totally a big deal for photos that will just be posted on social media.

Just for fun, I tried comparing the V20 Pro with Google’s Pixel 2 XL — a flagship from three years ago

V20 Pro’s Super Macro Mode vs Pixel 2 XL’s 5x Zoom

Having an AI camera can surely help you take better photos when the phone detects a particular subject or object. This automatically switched to vivo’s built-in Super Macro Mode. The lady bug can still be seen but it failed to preserve the accurate highlights and shadows.

Pixel, on the other hand, was able to preserve the scene just like how my eyes saw it. It’s totally not a fair comparison because Pixel lacks a macro mode but it still got the job done of capturing that tiny bug hiding on the leaf.

V20 Pro HDR | Pixel 2 XL HDR+

This second photo shows how software processing affects the color accuracy of one shot. Then again, Pixel 2 XL has delivered the shot closer to what you’ll see in reality. These were both taken when the sun was completely out, past six in the evening.

V20 Pro’s Night Mode vs Pixel 2 XL’s Night Sight

Finally, the sun is gone. I then tried to shoot this night scenery. The V20 Pro’s output still looked like the sun was present in the scene. Meanwhile, the Pixel, though grainy, still produced a better-looking photo with the right amount of highlights and shadows.

These samples show how a 2017-made flagship can still keep up with a new 2020-midranger. Regardless if a phone is a new or not, this proves how computational photography still plays a big role in shooting photos.

Finally, less-smudgy selfies

For an obvious reason, the V20 Pro has a slightly wider notch because of its dual front cameras. There’s a main 44-megapixel f/2.0 selfie camera, while the second sensor is an 8-megapixel f/2.28 ultra-wide selfie shooter for those extra-wide groufies — which isn’t ideal yet in this pandemic because we still need to distance ourselves (especially from our crushes).

Wide | Ultra-Wide

Taking selfies in establishments is now bearable, thanks to the existence of face masks 😂

Wide | Ultra-Wide

Is the vivo V20 Pro your GadgetMatch?

vivo v20 Pro

For someone who wants to taste vivo’s freshly-served ice cream, the V20 Pro is still worth purchasing. Although it’s priced at PhP 24,999, it’s simply not the cheapest and most power-packed 5G smartphone option you can get today.

But considering how vivo carefully crafted this latest piece of hardware and still managed to have power-packed internals, a large battery, and even a 5G modem inside a slim chassis, this is one of the best picks especially now that the country is slowly evolving into a 5G-ready nation.

If you’re still hesitating to buy it due to the inconsistencies in camera performance, the only hope we could ask is for vivo to solve it via future software updates. If the notch is a complete dealbreaker, there’s an Android app that can completely hide it for you.

vivo v20 series

V20 | V20 SE | V20 Pro

Now, if you care less about 5G and want a cheaper variant, get the V20 instead with some caveats over its ‘Pro’ sibling. But if you care less about the bells and whistles the higher V20 variants offer, the V20 SE is an option, especially if you want to try out the nature of vivo’s ecosystem.

Availability update as of 12/5/2020

The vivo V20 Pro is now available through Smart Signature Plan L 1999. Interested subscribers need to only pay an initial cash-out of PhP 3,710 and add PhP 200 on top of their monthly bill; or pay a one-time cash out of PhP 8,300.

Existing Smart Signature subscribers looking to renew their plan only need to add PhP 179 on top of their monthly bill or opt for the one-time cash out option of PhP 4,300.

As a limited treat, Smart Signature subscribers with approved applications for vivo V20 Pro will also get Free Wireless Earbuds worth PhP 2,499 until January 15, 2021.

 

Gaming

NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… Review

Playable Anime

Published

on

NieR Replicant

An earnest protagonist, a “tsundere” who’s also kind of there for fan service, an almost fourth-wall breaking character, and a world dealing with an underlying crisis; NieR Replicant ver. 1.222474487139 (which we’ll refer to as NieR Replicant henceforth) has all the elements of a wonderful anime. Except, it’s a game — one that goes out of its way to offer multiple types of play.

After getting through a single playthrough of NieR Replicant, I found that most of the things I said I liked in my first impressions (music, gameplay, combat, dialogue) were the ones that will endear me to the game even further.

Everything for your sister

As the protagonist, you play the role of a brother who will do just about anything and everything for your sister. The game starts off with you looking for a way to cure the mysterious illness that’s befallen your sister.

This is the main driving force of the main character. All his actions in the main storyline are all in the service of doing what’s best for his sister.

A memorable cast

Along the way you meet the rest of the main cast. This includes a magical, talking, floating book named Grimoir Weiss who serves as both a helpful ally and a backseat protagonist who never fails to point out the obvious in every situation in a way that almost feels like it’s being directed at the player.

You’ll also build a certain level of kinship with people in your town as well as key characters in every main area of the game. This includes the two other members of your party: Kaine and Emil — both of which also have interesting backstories which I will not spoil here. Just know that all these relationships and it resonates with you, the player, will determine much of what you’ll feel about the game’s story.

NieR Replicant

“Fan Service” Kaine

Dealing with loss

One thing that you will constantly encounter in the game is the feeling of dealing with loss. It already feels heavy on its own, but if I may step back a bit. Having to deal with loss in real life recently and feeling the collective grief of people in my circle also having to deal with the same just amplifies the general feeling of hopelessness and emptiness of experiencing loss.

This feeling, however prevalent in the game, is perfectly balanced by the injection of humor from Grimoir Weiss and the happy memories you have with the ones you’ve lost. Memories also play a part in key points of the story.

Multi-faceted gameplay 

Shifting the tone a little bit, the overall gameplay of NieR Replicant will keep you on your toes.

It’s not just a mindless hack and slash game. There are sections where it’ll turn into a 2D platformer with some sprinkles of puzzle solving.

The level designs are fantastic. One thing that stood out to me is how the Square Enix and Toylogic very intentionally frames certain levels. Since this is, after all, a sort of remake of game that was first released in 2010, it is free from the burden of giving the player full camera control. This results in beautifully framed scenes as you play.

There’s one particular area that reminds me of the camera work on the original Resident Evil games on the PlayStation One.

Later on in the game, you’ll enter a deeper portion of that area and it will give you an entire section of the game that looks and plays like Diablo II. 

These areas are all perfectly placed in different sections of the game that certainly adds to the overall pacing. It can feel draggy, especially when you’re doing side quests, but having levels and areas like this make it all better. Oh and yeah, take some time to do side quests, it’ll help with getting gold (the game’s currency), some useful items, and immerse you further in the game’s world.

Here’s a quick look at the combat in the early part of the game.

The music is just… *chef’s kiss

I’ve already talked about this at length in my first impressions. But even then, it would be a disservice to not mention it here again. The music in this game is just my cup of tea.

It’s the kind of music that really transports you into the game world. If you’ve ever had fantasies of being whisked away to a different reality, the music in this game is what you would imagine to be playing.

It perfectly evokes the proper mood in every area of the game. The main village gives off this “going on an epic adventure” vibe, the area filled with robots sound robotic, and the aforementioned Resident Evil-like area fills you with horror. You can even say it almost foreshadows the fate of some levels and locations. That’s how good the music in this game is.

You can listen to the 2010 versions of the music here. Bear in mind that most of these were re-done/re-recorded for NieR Replicant ver. 1.222474487139.

Should you play NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… ?

Anyone who’s into narrative-driven games should give NieR Replicant a whirl. That’s also especially true if you’re an anime fan. It will feel familiar because of certain tropes, some fan service, and a time skip.

It’s a fantastic entry point into the whole NieR franchise. It will get you curious about the NieR world at large and will certainly make you want to explore or replay the 2017 hit game NieR:Automata. But of course, not before you give NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… all the playthroughs it deserves.

NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… is available April 23 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on Steam.

Continue Reading

Reviews

realme C25: Your budget content creation companion

Published

on

realme C25

During this pandemic lockdown, many of us maximized the advantages of being online and ventured into selling our products or creating vlogs and podcasts to keep us sane and productive.

In these unprecedented times, it is highly essential to have a smartphone that is reliable not just for your day-to-day activities but also for your digital content creation. 

And truly, realme commits to providing us with amazing options for that, such as their new follow-up to the C series, the realme C25.

For starters, let’s check out what this smartphone has in store for us.

Pleasing to your senses

Similar to realme’s budget gaming phone narzo 30A that they recently launched, the C25 flaunts a large 6.5-inch screen but with a 1600×720 display.

Despite it not being in full HD+, the phone’s resolution actually shows pretty accurate colors and good viewing angles. The screen has peak brightness of up to 480 nits which is already bright but could’ve used some improvement especially if you’ll be using it outdoors. 

Up front, you will notice the selfie camera at the center which is a bit intrusive for my taste. Luckily, the bezels surrounding the screen are not thicker than today’s standards.

realme C25

The C25 comes in Water Blue and Water Grey and I was actually glad to unbox the Water Blue variant since I can see the details clearer on the back cover.

When it comes to its construction, realme put this phone a notch above the rest. They processed it using the industry-leading German fixed-axis precise radium engraving machine, making the device more appealing, comfortable to the touch and less susceptible to fingerprints and smudges.

 You can also see its square camera setup cut-out and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor at the upper middle part.

realme C25

While on the right side of the phone are its volume rockers and power button.

realme C25

Gives you enough space

As someone who is largely dependent on my phone for casual photos and preview for my shoots, one thing I really liked about the C25 is its large storage. You have 4GB of RAM on this phone and have two storage options, 64GB and 128GB.

And when you check the left side of the phone, you’d see that there are two nano SIM card slots and a dedicated microSD card slot to bring you more network and storage freedom as you can expand it by up to 256GB.

Snap and create

One big advantage of the realme C25 is that this is their first phone belonging to their C-series that features a 48MP AI-triple camera. Its camera setup consists of a 48MP primary camera, 2MP monochrome lens and  2MP macro lens.

realme C25

I tested all cameras and noticed that its main camera produced vibrant colors but isn’t very detailed. You can also notice the graininess on this photo.

As for its night mode, the camera produced decent exposures but its processing is not at par with flagship phones.

Its macro lens on the other hand, showed great details which would definitely be helpful if you have an online business and you’d be using your C25 to take shots of your products.

Power under the hood

One amazing feature about the realme C25 is that you can find the MediaTek Helio G70 processor at the core of this device, ensuring a powerful and swift performance for content creators and gamers alike, giving people another reason to compare it to its brother, the narzo 30A.

realme C25

Another big advantage of this phone is that it runs on realme UI 2.0 on Android 11, making its interface pleasant and easy to navigate.

Battery that you need

The winning feature for the realme C25 is that it is equipped with a whopping 6,000 mAh battery that can let you do your daily tasks, watch videos, play your games and even do your shoots for your content all day long without worrying.

On the first day that I had it, I fully charged the battery and left it open for 24 hours without much activity and its level just went down to 98%. For the next couple of days, I used it for my usual activities, and it just went lowbatt after 3 days.

This phone even has some helpful battery settings such as App Quick Freeze which can minimize your battery use by background apps, and Screen Battery Optimization that can tone down some of the phone’s display effects to save power.

realme C25

Complementing this huge battery is a 18W fast charger which can fully charge it in two hours. Another bonus is that despite it being a budget phone, the realme C25 has reverse wired charging in case you have an emergency and you forgot to bring a powerbank for your other gadgets.  

Unrivaled durability and reliability

Though in denial, I must admit I can be really clumsy that I tend to drop my phone or splash it with water from time to time. With the realme C25, I don’t have to worry too much about these situations as it is the first smartphone that passed TÜV Rheinland Smartphone High Reliability Certification. 

This means that this phone encompassed daily use test scenarios such as drop, wear and tear, extreme environment test scenarios and component reliability test scenarios based on the three- year life cycle of smartphones.

For realme to take this further step and invest on such an upgrade for the C25 definitely sets higher standards for other budget phones.

Is realme C25 your GadgetMatch?

This phone is really targeted for people on a budget but are looking for a smartphone with a high battery capacity, good cameras, performance, latest software and durable and reliable for your day-to-day tasks and content creation.

If all these features tick all the boxes on your checklist, then the realme C25 is definitely your GadgetMatch.

But if you’re looking for a smartphone with a better screen, faster charging and other camera features such as an ultrawide lens, you may opt for a higher end smartphone.

The realme C25 is available in Water Blue and Water Grey variants and is priced at PhP 7,490 for the 4GB RAM + 64GB internal storage and PhP 8,490 for the 4GB RAM + 128GB internal storage.  

Continue Reading

Gaming

Balan Wonderworld review: A theater for young ages

Facing the reality behind the curtains

Published

on

Balan Wonderworld

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.

Continue Reading

Trending