Since the advent of platform gaming, the genre has come on leaps and bounds. Although some (this writer included) would argue that many titles overcomplicate their gameplay, introducing unnecessary additions that threaten to overwhelm younger gamers. Thankfully then, Wunderling is perhaps one of the most accessible platform titles in years, albeit with challenging level design that will gradually test your abilities to their limit. Combine this with beautiful pixelated graphics and Wunderling is one of the most accomplished platform games available on the Switch – no, really.
With a plot that flips genre conventions on their head, you play as a very low-level goon who has been granted with the remarkable ability to jump. If you’ve been playing games for, well, any stretch of time, this might not sound like the most exciting perk, but it actually forms the foundation for Wunderling’s puzzle gameplay. To say much more of the plot would ruin the fun, but the writing is incredibly witty throughout, with some not-so-subtle pop culture references dropped in the dialogue exchanges (a Mother 3 reference early on made us chuckle with glee).
The gameplay is incredibly simple to pick up, yet remains addictive and full of hidden depth throughout the game. The titular protagonist, while cute and brave, isn’t particularly smart, and can only walk in the direction he happens to be facing. He’ll continue along his path – much like one of the characters from Lemmings – until he walks into a wall, at which point he’ll turn around and walk right back the other way. Your job is to time your jumps to perfection in order to navigate the terrain and avoid any barriers that may be in your way.
In addition to simply moving yourself from point A to B within the levels, you’re often required to collect keys in order to unlock gates along the way. Due to the nature of the gameplay, if you happen to miss one of these, it can sometimes be impossible to make your way back for a second run, so you’re forced to jump into some spikes or some water in order to restart the level from scratch. This might sound annoying in theory, but thanks to the swift loading times, this is never really much of an issue. And to be honest, once you’ve missed a key once, the game is generally forgiving enough to ensure that you don't make the same mistake again.
The game’s worlds take place across various locales, including beaches and desert areas, all split into more than ten separate levels of increasing complexity. As you progress, you’ll gain access to more and more perks that will aid you along your quest, including a speed boost, adorable wings that allow you to fly, and curious creatures that swallow Wunderling whole, spitting him across the level in a specific direction. These perks are all temporary, but learning how and where to use them is crucial in completing the levels in a timely manner.
You’ll need to be quick too, as scattered throughout the levels are collectable flowers. Collecting these keeps Wunderling functioning; spend too long in the level without picking any up, and he’ll explode. So not only will you undoubtedly die numerous times due to the sheer complexity of some the levels, but you’re also constantly working against the clock. Don’t panic though, as despite the difficulty, Wunderling remains a satisfyingly relaxing experience; one that feels built for both children and adults in mind.
The graphics and sound design really compliment the overall gameplay experience. There are no unnecessary bells and whistles, but the pixelated visuals look lovely, and it runs incredibly well in both docked and handheld modes. You can also completely customise the look of Wunderling with unlockable costumes and accessories, which is a nice little touch. A little more variation with the environmental art design could have pushed the game even higher, but it’s serviceable enough for the most part. It's the gameplay itself that really shines, and this makes Wunderling a very easy recommendation.
By removing the basic ability to turn direction whilst walking, Wunderling proves itself to be an incredibly addictive platformer that boasts excellent level design, brilliant writing, and adorable visuals. Its impressive accessibility means that almost anyone can pick it up, but it simultaneously remains challenging enough to keep you engaged for hours.