So the next 500+s words will hopefully be a convincing argument for why you should purchase Bad Pad, the debut release from Headbang Games, but I want to put the key fact up front. The map screen of Bad Pad features a song which goes “CASTLE MAP! CASTLE MAP! SHOWS YOU WHERE YOU’RE FUCKING AT!” I can think of no better introduction to the delightful tone of this fantastic little Metroidvania.
Bad Pad’s plot is simple. During a particularly stressful game of Mario, a young man throws his controller away in a rage. The resultant explosion results in the buttons of the pad becoming sentient, before a bunch of them are stolen by an evil button from the future and scattered around a sprawling castle. Our hero Square must go into the castle and platform his way to rescuing them and defeating the evil Pen.
What follows is a delightfully epic exploration of the Pen’s massive castle, with each room offering a huge variety of complex platforming challenges. This is a real classic platformer as well – there is no attacking the enemies here (apart from during some fantastically designed boss battles) just a huge array of tricks, traps and massive leaps of faith where you weave between spinning spikes and pillars of flame. A game like this lives and dies by its controls, and I’m happy to report that Bad Pad absolutely crushes this aspect. Your character moves with the tight responsiveness of the similar Super Meat Boy.
The other highlight of the game is the music. Composed entirely in-house, there is a deliciously crunchy power metal score for each room that seamlessly transitions as you make your way through the game. Cutscenes are done as full musical numbers, giving the whole thing a Tenacious D feel. Indeed, it’s obvious that the music was a huge factor for the designers; most of the marketing for the game describes it as a Heavy Metal Comedy.
If I do have a criticism, it’s this: There’s a certain lack of cohesiveness to the elements of the game. While the comedy is funny, the music is great and the platforming and Metroidvania elements are perfectly designed, they never come together too much in the way of interesting results. The controller buttons don’t seem to have any relation to the heavy metal music, indeed, that element of the game seems completely detached from everything else, despite also playing a huge role in defining the game’s tone.
Equally, the fact that your characters are animated controller buttons seems to be little more than an aesthetic decision. Nothing about these characters comments on their situation, or even just video games in general. Now, I’m not saying your Metroidvania should stop in the middle and have an existential crisis about the character’s origin as an animated piece of a controller, but I’m curious why you would introduce such an element if you weren’t going to capitalise on it.
It almost seems as though there were three distinct things the developers had going for them: the score, the art, and the game design, and that these things were simply slammed together with no attempt to tether them together into any kind of holistic design.
But, I don’t want that to count as a reason not to buy this game. If you’re hooked on the Metroidvania genre like I’ve been recently, this will absolutely scratch the itch for you. Give it a shot. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be rocking out to this map screen for the foreseeable future.