Developed By: Retroid Interactive
Published By: Retroid Interactive
Category: Platformer, Puzzle
Release Date: 03.05.2020
2D platformers would be an easier genre to break into if there weren’t so many long-standing players in the game. Distinguishing yourself from the pack in one of the most traditional styles of games either takes an original personality or well-executed gameplay. Combining beautiful, throwback visuals, a charming soundtrack, and addictive platforming, Wunderling manages to strike a nice balance between the two and establish itself as a unique entry to the genre.
Wunderling first plays with the traditional model by casting the player as the lowest form of enemy: the grunt. In an attempt to mix up her approach to stopping the ever-elusive Carrot Man in his quest to save Princess Pea, evil sorceress Kohlrabi revives the crushed body of a yellow underling, augmenting it with the power to jump. From there the unnamed foot soldier takes off in pursuit of the game’s hero. It’s a cute twist on the common narrative of plumber/mutant animal saves the day by suggesting maybe the hero isn’t acting in the best interst of the world.
Like most bread-and-butter platformers, the narrative isn’t particularly deep. Occasionally a character may appear to share a secret about the magical Vegetable Kingdom, but for the most part, the story is basic and linear. Thankfully, it’s kept to only a few cutscenes and some information pulled from the princess’ diaries you collect along your journey. There are also these short, “interactive” scenes acted out by repetitive button presses, but the real fun is in executing timely jumps and dashes across many of the Wunderling’s short, but well-designed levels.
While our little anti-hero is blessed with the ability to jump, it’s unable to stop or change direction (with a few exceptions). This “autorun” scenario is an interesting (although not entirely uncommon) take on the genre boosted by tight and reactive jump mechanics. There were levels that required some trial and error, but I never felt cheated by them, nor were they long enough to be a real challenge.
Another element to the puzzle is you’re only able to stay alive by collecting the little yellow pellets you find throughout the different levels, the design of each encouraging you to collect them in a certain order lest you die an early death. It’s that extra challenge that fleshes out the gameplay and draws out a bit more replay value, especially if you’re the type of player who can’t finish a level without collecting all the goods. In fact, the length of each level is what brought me back to play and try again. In this sense, Wunderling is a game well-suited for Switch.
The game is at its strongest visually. Set in a bright and colorful series of worlds rendered with pixel graphics, Wunderling is easy to look at, if not a touch derivative. I can’t quite place it, but the wunderling looks an awful lot like another popular henchling made famous for getting stepped on. Luckily, the player can dress it up with various collectibles and outfits to give it some personality of their own. Those collectibles are also another reason to go back and visit older stages, squeezing a bit more replay value out of its bite-sized levels. Musically, the game reminded me of the original Paper Mario with its unbearably cute soundtrack. It’s fitting 16bit music to go along with the equally sweet animations bouncing around in the background.
While not exactly revolutionary, Wunderling is still an adorable puzzle game that never outstayed its welcome. The presentation isn’t groundbreaking, but the retro-inspired, colorful graphics and music act as a kind of palate cleanser for our times. With so much to collect and customize across the game’s many, quick levels, there’s plenty of reason to revisit old ones on a second and third play. It’s fun, and right now, that’s all you can ask games to be.