Review: Wunderling

Developer: Retroid Interactive

Publisher: Retroid Ineractive

Genre: Platformer, Puzzle, Adventure, Action, Indie

Platforms: PC, Switch

Rating: E for Everyone

Price: $14.99

In Wunderling, players take control of a standard low-level minion, recently resurrected by the sorceress Kohlrabi. The mission she gives the minion is simple: stop the hero, Carrot-Man, from rescuing Princess Pea. In order to accomplish this goal, the player must eliminate all three of Carrot-Man’s lives, ridding the Vegetable Kingdom of his heroic deeds forever.

I had a rather difficult experience with this game. There were several things about it that I liked and thought were well-executed. But on the other hand, some things frustrated me to the point of wanting to walk away completely. I’ll discuss each thing in turn, starting with an overview.

Content Guide:

Language: A character takes the Lord’s name in vain at least once. There is one use of d****t.

Sexual content: There are a couple of veiled sexual jokes. Carrot-Man tells Princess Pea that there’s no pressure to date him, because, in his words, “Who KNOWS what I could be into.”

Violence: The player character explodes when it dies, but there is no blood. Carrot-Man and the player kill each other throughout the game’s story.

Spiritual content: A sorceress on a flying celery stick uses dark magic to resurrect the player minion after the hero-enemy Carrot-Man stomps on him. She also uses magic to give the player new abilities.

Positive themes: There is a speech on what it means to be a hero.

Review

Wunderling is a typical side-scrolling platformer, in that progressing through the levels in each world unlocks new worlds. Every few worlds, you face off against Carrot-Man in a boss battle of sorts. Each battle is different, although most are really just chasing after him.

On the Switch version, aside from navigating the menu, Wunderling can be played with only one hand. The game only uses the face buttons and the ZR button. This is primarily due to the fact that you can’t control the minion’s walking or direction. He moves on his own one way either until he hits a wall and turns around, or dies. All you’re responsible for is jumping and boosting.

As you progress through a level, you have to collect magic blossoms in order to stay alive. The sorceress’s resurrection magic needs them to work. The number of blossoms varies with each level, and you’re rewarded for getting all of them in every level. Fortunately, the game saves which ones you’ve already collected, so if you die, you’re not required to get all of them again for it to count. Were that not the case, it would be considerably more difficult to grab all of them.

Every level has a treasure chest to find, and each one has some sort of customization item. There are some that, before you can get them, require you to have found a certain number of chests beforehand in that world. By the game’s admission, they have no other point than to change the minion’s look.

In addition to treasure chests, some levels have hidden portals to find that lead to secret levels. There are also cassettes that unlock songs from the game’s soundtrack, so you can listen to them in the menu. Both the portals and tapes are typically cleverly hidden, though a few are easier to find to encourage players to keep looking in the other levels.

All of the collectibles and secrets aid the replay value. The power-ups from later in the game assist in finding the early level secrets. However, completionists have a challenge ahead of them, as some of the secrets are not only difficult to find, but challenging to obtain and keep once found.

Concerning the things I liked: Similar to a lot of indie games, the graphics style is reminiscent of side-scrolling games from the SNES era. The imagery is also fun and creative. Additionally, the soundtrack complements the changes in the atmosphere of the levels in each world.

Various characters bring attention to the usual conventions for this genre. Carrot-Man mentions World 1 music, and he never misses opportunity to let the player know that he’s the hero. It also draws attention to how many lives Carrot-Man has left, and he becomes more aggravated with each loss.

Finally, a funny and creative choice was having the cow character Dash, employee of the sorceress, film Kohlrabi as she makes speeches for the citizens of the kingdom.

Now, on to the drawbacks. I understand the logic of not being able to control the minion’s movements. He’s a standard, mindless drone, so naturally he won’t be able to think his way through the levels the way a hero can. But there are times when it doesn’t work well enough to be fun. All too often, the player has maybe half a second to think about the next ten steps, and another half a second to execute.

Some of the levels, primarily later in the game but with a few scattered throughout the earlier worlds, have a jarring spike in difficulty. Certain points were so frustrating that I’m not sure if it was meant to be that hard, or if it was poor level design. For example, in one level, getting the treasure chest requires buttons to be pressed in a very specific order, but it’s almost impossible to avoid messing it up by pressing a button you’ve already done. Add in a very small window of less than fifteen seconds to do it, and you have a recipe for rage-quitting. If you can’t get the chest on your first pass through, you won’t be able to get it without restarting the level.

I encountered a couple of bugs during my play through. At least three times, the game completely crashed on me. At two other other points, after restarting a level, the game didn’t register when I pressed the button to spawn the minion in order to start moving, forcing me to restart the level again to fix it. The bugs were irksome, but not game-breaking.

I want to like the game, I really do, and I think that’s why it frustrated me so much. I’m a sucker for the old-school graphics style, and the concept is a lot of fun. It has many good things going for it, but the drawbacks greatly damaged the experience for me.

Review copy generously provided by Novy Unlimited

The Bottom Line

 

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David Koury

Writer and gamer residing in the wasteland that is Nevada.

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