You have to feel bad for the platformer underling. The minions of a later boss probably don’t have anything against you, right? They’re just doing their job. No doubt they’ve been shown a picture of your hero and told, merely, to stop them from moving forward. And here’s a rubbish weapon to make that happen. Oh, and it’s more than likely that if they jump on your head you’re going to die immediately and be removed from history altogether, like you never existed. It’s a tough, thankless gig. Wunderling wants to shine a light on these poor folk, and it’s about time too.
A 2D platformer with a heart of gold is always going to peak my interest. Call it attempting to cling onto a gaming era long since diminished or a precarious balancing act between looking to the future with an idea from the past, you can file Wunderling under a concept that scratches an itch of a fun, classic platformer with a twist. Yoku’s Island Express holds a place in my heart for similar reasons and I’m glad it fell into my lap. Navigating my way through this one in between Call of Duty Warzone sessions is quite the catharsis.
Our story begins much like any other. The games ‘hero’, Carrot Man, has once again thwarted the plans of the evil sorceress, Kohlrabi, and saved his beloved Princess Pea with nary a scratch upon his pointy orange person. Out of answers and terribly frustrated with her failing attempts to finally turn Carrot Man into carrot juice, Kohlrabi turns to the recently mashed up body of the nearest potato minion she sees and brings him back to life. Thus, your journey as the games true hero kicks off. It’s a fun, engaging way to kick Wunderling into gear and immediately demonstrates this is one platformer quite unlike the rest.
Kohlrabi is quite the presence throughout the story through cut-scenes, where she’ll record propaganda videos for the rest of the kingdom to watch through a camera stuck onto the head of a cow with a brilliantly dry sense of humour. The writing in these moments is a particular standout which succeeded in garnering a chuckle or five out of this reviewer. It’s a fun script and I always looked forward to these moments in between the gameplay.
Wunderling’s unique platforming angle is you’re playing as a goon. A gooma. As such, you’re infinitely moving left to right. In ‘resurrecting’ you, Kohlrabi gave this disposable minion the ability to jump, and early on that’s all you’re able to control (various special moves unlock the further you progress). It’s a funny angle that made me realise that yes, that’s all these enemies really ever do isn’t it? Just move left to right in the hope that they’ll bring down the hero. Wunderling leans into this concept with aplomb, making the game a one button experience for the most part.
It’s probably easy to assume that a game like Wunderling can be written off as a simple enough one button platformer. Left to right, job done. Thankfully there’s a surprising amount of depth in the level design which encourages replayability. Whilst each level isn’t particularly long in comparison to say, Ori or the aforementioned Yoku’s Island, there’s various collectibles and hidden stuffs as you play through the easy route that’ll catches the eye, and you want to know how on earth you’re meant to get there in order to open treasure chests or collect keys. The natural comparison to make would be Super Mario Run on mobile, as it’s straightforward enough to just tap the screen to make Mario jump, you also need to be on the lookout for ways to get to coloured coins and score multipliers.
That’s where Wunderling shines. Inside the treasure chests you’ll discover items which you can use to dress your hero, and finally working out how to reach one is wholly satisfying. I skipped through a few only to go back and try to work out how to reach certain areas that lay off the beaten path.
Then there’s the flowers, which are needed to keep your health up throughout each level. Your health can deteriorate if you navigate too long without collecting flowers, fortunately they’re never too far away should you find yourself needing a boost. Returning to the level (back at the beginning if you don’t discover a checkpoint) after you die is instantaneous and infinite, so you’re given plenty of backup to get through each level.
So there’s plenty to like about Wunderling and I had a good time beating all of its puzzles and replaying through levels, of which there are over 100, so there’s a generous amount of game here. In a very Celeste kind of way the levels are designed with the ‘start over’ mentality in mind, so it’s not a particularly tricky game. There are moments you’ll be scratching your head and then slapping it because it was clear what you were meant to be doing, you may have just got a little lost avoiding pitfalls and chasing flowers. It’s also much easier than Celeste, thankfully.
It’s hardly a gripe though. There’s nothing particularly excellent about Wunderling, everything it does it does well and that’s about all there is to it. It’s a fun if not remarkable time, and if you’re looking for a platformer/puzzler that revels in mixing up the formula and making you laugh along the way, you won’t need to look much further.
I’ll get you next time, Carrot Man!
Wunderling is available now for Nintendo Switch (reviewed) and PC.
Developer: Retroid Interactive
Publisher: Retroid Interactive
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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