Balan Wonderworld (opens in new tab), the whimsical action-platformer from the creators of games including Sonic the Hedgehog, Nights into Dreams, and Phantasy Star Online, is set to arrive on Steam in March. You'll be able to see what it's all about next week, though, with the arrival of a beefy demo offering roughly two hours of solo or local co-op gameplay in parts of three of the game's 12 realms:
World 1 – The Man Who Rages Against the Storm
Playable Areas: Act 1, Act 2, Boss Battle
- World One is set in a beautiful farm, made up of rolling hills and giant crops. This mysterious world is woven from the memories inside Jose Gallard’s heart, a farmer whose beautiful cornfield is struck by a storm. The boss lurking in the depths of Jose’s world is Barktholomew, the embodiment of Jose’s despair after seeing his cornfield being destroyed.
World 4 – The Boy Who Would be One with the Wind
Playable Areas: Act 1
- World Four takes place in a fantastical setting born from the heart of Chang Haoyu and his love of the open sky, where bicycle parts and floating islands of all sizes are scattered through the sky.
World 6 – The Girl and the Kitten
Playable Areas: Act 1
- World Six follows the story of Cass Milligan, depicting the town where she meets a cute kitten. In this magical world built from Cass Milligan’s fond memories, candy pieces and books float in the air and there are mysterious buildings full of moving gears.
Along with that, you'll also have the opportunity to explore the Isle of Tims, a sort of home base area that also serves as a gateway to the demo's three realms. The name does not arise from a Canadian coffee chain sponsorship, but from the name of the magical creatures who inhabit the island—the Tims—whose abilities can be used to aid the game's heroes, Leo and Emma, as they explore each game world and do battle with Negati, the bad guys who, if I'm understanding things correctly, plague people with "worries and negativity."
Balan Wonderworld is a collection of 12 different stories, themed around a mysterious, magical musical theater. The stars of the show will take advantage of special abilities gained from more than 80 "characterful costumes" as they explore memories and "get to the heart of each touching story." It's lighthearted and silly, but not entirely so: Cass Milligan's friendship with the stray kitten in chapter six, for instance, takes a seriously wrong turn during a chance meeting one day:
"She waved to her newfound friend from across the road just as the lights changed... Now she wishes she could turn back time."
I won't lie, there's a little part of me, deep down inside, that's curling up into a ball at this very moment.
Despite those twinges of childhood trauma that I thought were long buried and behind me, I think Balan Wonderworld looks very promising—platformers aren't usually my thing but there's a kind of Psychonauts ambience going on here that I find really appealing. The demo is set to go live on Steam (opens in new tab) on January 28, while the full game will be out on March 26, and leading up to that you can find out more at from square-enix-games.com (opens in new tab).