Bad Seed's The Beggar's Ride hit the world of mobile gaming late last year, and has now made the transition to the Wii U eShop. The tale follows an unlikely hero in the shape of an old bearded beggar as he is teleported to a mysterious and desolate land, where he finds a cryptic mask which gives him the power to see and control the world as a God.
The Beggar's Ride is seemingly a basic platformer when you start. There are prompts to show you how to jump and hang from walls, and it appears to be a pretty one dimensional approach. However, once you find the first mask everything begins to take shape a little more and the real game begins. The first mask allows you to control the rain and clouds, allowing you to partake in some interesting puzzles in order to progress; the mask element adds a depth to this game which keeps it interesting. There is a LostWinds vibe as The Beggar's Ride is quite similar in terms of style, gameplay and puzzle difficulty.
There are four masks to find in total, and each one allows you a new and different ability. The masks are also upgraded each time, the first one being wooden and simplistic and the last one being more majestic; this alludes to the growth of your power and marks the development of the story. Keys also have to be found in order to unlock the next stage, giving you a clear objective. There are carefully placed tutorials to hold your hand throughout the game, which could be a welcome addition to some, but may be annoying for other more seasoned gamers. Some of the tutorials on the loading screens also have neat references such as 'The Princess is in Another Castle', a nice addition to make you feel included and smug when you understand them.
Although the puzzles are not super difficult, there are a few head scratching examples that will have you thinking for a moment and questioning your intelligence. They get harder as you go on, but the difficulty curve could do with with some more consideration as it seems to jump quickly from easy to tough without warning. It can also get a little fiddly at times as some situations call for complete precision, which can be frustrating. The introduction of a physics engine is also an interesting feature - as mentioned before it can get a little trying, but patience is virtue. There is the option to restart puzzles as well as checkpoints littered throughout the game which means that if you fail/die it's not too much of a travesty. Some checkpoints also have the added feature of teleporting you, which saves some time if you know where you need to go.
The puzzle side of the game is mostly good, but the platforming side is lacking. The protagonist is slow and ambling, which is understandable considering his age, but it makes it hard to make certain jumps and can be frustrating when you just want to zip around quickly. The environment is also rather sparse when it comes to enemies, but the ones you do encounter allow you to utilise puzzles to defeat/evade them. The masks act as a clear signpost between the elements of the game, as when you are wearing a mask you are not able to move and therefore will solely be working on a puzzle - removing the mask brings you back to the platforming side. It's a nice way to divide the gameplay style, but it would have been more effective to combine the two for a more blended experience.
The graphics are clean and colourful, much of what you would expect from a mobile game - not anything spectacular, but comforting and well executed. There are two realities to switch between, one when wearing your mask and one without; the God stage changes the world to golden and regal, making for a gorgeous viewing experience. You can clearly see from the user interface that this game was optimized for mobile, however the design still translates well to a larger screen. There is a consistent celestial vibe throughout, with circular icons and map features. Much time is spent looking at your GamePad instead of the screen, as touch controls are still an integral part of the game play. Throughout your adventure there are portions of text which appear on the screen either to narrate the story or to give you a hint. This is quite a novel addition compared to the standard text bubble, as it appears more within the world and doesn't pull you out of the atmosphere too much. The text, like the graphics, also varies between the worlds and helps to keep the story more dimensional.
The music in A Beggars Ride is a downside, as it is the same soundtrack and sound effects over and over again. This can work one of two ways: you can become immune to it and not really hear it anymore, or it can be a source of frustration. The protagonist doesn't speak, in fact he doesn't even appear to have his eyes open, but every now and then he'll make the odd noise to show you he's alive. There is a voiceover at certain points which acts much like a storyteller regaling a fairy tale to you - it does this in portions, which keeps you motivated to see how the story unfolds over time.
The game will only take around five hours to beat, depending on how you fare with the puzzles. Perhaps on the mobile it was intended to play in shorter bursts, but on the Wii U it can stand to be completed in a couple of sittings. Alongside the main adventure there is the added quest of collecting coins. Much like stars in Super Mario 3D World, you can go back and collect these once you have the power required to obtain them. This is a great feature for those who might feel the game is a little too short. The map will show you where you still have tokens to collect, which means you can still come back and play those particular chapters if you so wish.
The Beggar's Ride is a cool little game to play if you just fancy a few hours of escapism. The shortcomings lay in the execution of some of its puzzles, within the slow pace of the protagonist and its basic platforming aspect. Despite these niggles, it is a solid and clever game with colourful graphics, a charming story and pleasantly challenging game play which will appeal to both experienced and casual gamers. The coins are a good option for anyone looking to play longer, and the narration is a smart touch. Definitely one to enjoy on a rainy afternoon.