Ant farms are boring. When I was a kid, my friend begged his parents to get him one for months. Eventually, they caved, and I raced over to his house to experience the feeling of playing God to a bunch of insects trapped in a maze. Fifteen minutes later, we decided we could have more fun by watching the latest episode of Walker: Texas Ranger. At first glance, Badman is a lot like an anthill. You’ll dig tunnels beneath ground, micromanaging units, in hopes of creating the perfect ecosystem. But unlike an anthill, Badman has tons to offer, and anyone willing to try this experimental take on the creation/sim genre may never look at ant farms the same way again.
Badman has you playing the role of God, giving orders to your second-in-command, a demon known as the Overlord. Your ultimate goal is to create a sprawling ecosystem, spawning slimes, lizardmen, and dragons along the way, all in hopes of thwarting the plans of any heroes who may venture into your dungeon. Creating that ecosystem is no small order, however, as Badman has a rather deep rule set in order to create the perfect army. You’ll control a small pickaxe icon throughout the game, digging random squares of earth that will spawn your most basic minion — slime mosses. In turn, slimes will add nutrients to the ground they touch, creating stronger blocks of earth that can eventually lead to creating more powerful monsters. Buyer beware, Badman demands a thorough understanding of its minion food chain in order to succeed on the more difficult levels. Luckily, there are more then enough tutorials and challenges to help one learn the nuances of the game.
In fact, the challenges and training levels are the bulk of the game. While there is a story mode, one will only get one crack at a level during each play through, as the game is over once one's army is overrun and the Overlord is taken. Not being able to continue is somewhat of a bummer, but it does force the player to take advantage of the game’s 40 training and challenge modes, and there is more than enough there to make Badman a worthy $10 dollar investment.
While the learning curve can be brutal at times, it’s all made easier by Badman’s carefree, humor-infused presentation. The Overlord speaks a form of gibberish that sounds like a gremlin on speed. All the written dialogue present in the game is filled with intelligent wit and humor, and you’ll find yourself laughing out loud more then a few times at what the Overlord may, surprisingly, say at times. The look and sound of the game is a tip-of-the-hat to the 8-bit era. The Overlord and his minions (as well as the heroes) all resemble minuscule NES-era sprites. The music follows suit and fits in great with the overall presentation of the game.
For $10, you could do much worse then this exclusive PSN gem (likely seeing a UMD release this fall. If you’re not a fan of the creation/sim genre, and hated games like Sim City as a youth, stay away from this one. However, for those looking for a challenging simulation with intelligent humor to boot, Badman is a must own. The game is difficult and demands that the player understand every step involved with building a dominant ecosystem, but with enough practice, you’ll be slaying heroes with ease. Someday, if I ever have kids, I still won’t buy them an ant farm, but when they get old enough, I’ll have them try Badman. If they walk away from that to go watch Walker: Texas Ranger, then I’ll start to worry.
Badman is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Animated Blood, Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes.