Founded by former members of Trials Evolution developer RedLynx, Frogmind wants to create mobile games with production values that rival large studios’ efforts. And, aesthetically at least, its two-man team has fired a convincing opening salvo with Badland.
The achingly beautiful silhouettes, graphic-novel-style backdrops and crisp paired-down audio evoke Limbo’s sense of isolation and macabre discovery, and there’s even a little Oddworld in here. But it’s mechanically closer to Jetpack Joyride, despite being segmented into levels.
You must guide a charmingly drawn bat-like creature to the exit, holding your finger on the screen to make it rise and letting go to fall. Along the way, various power-ups will change its size, velocity, material properties or even create clones. In combination, these powers allow you to negotiate traps and solve ‘puzzles’ – though this is something of a misnomer, given that power-ups are placed exactly where you need them.
Frogmind’s previous involvement with Trials sets high expectations for player control, but your character’s lurching movement makes progress feel laboured – especially when trying to negotiate tight tunnels. Though specifically told not to do so, you’ll end up tapping the screen in an attempt to gain finer control and still continuously bump into scenery. It’s a great shame, because with tighter controls Frogmind’s charismatic debut would be a memorable one, but as it is it lacks the power to draw you back into its world.
Badland is available on the App Store for $3.99 / £2.99.