Video Game Review – Wanda: A Beautiful Apocalypse

Wanda: A Beautiful Apocalypse is a story-rich puzzle game focused on the relationship between two robots in the post-apocalyptic remains of their homeland. They journey to find friendship and discover what happened to their world. Expressive cutscenes tell the story without comprehensible dialogue and unique puzzles help the pair overcome unexpected challenges.

Release Date: June 3rd 2016
Developer: Kodots Games
Publisher: KISS ltd
Format: PC Game
First playthrough time: 2 hours

blue and red bot together
A story of companionship

Major Pros:

  • Cute and expressive characters
  • Adorable emotional story

Minor Pros:

  • Collectable picture scraps
  • Unique puzzles
blue bot inside circuit
Blue bot gets shrunk for this puzzle

Major Cons:

  • Fading out repeatedly during cutscenes
  • Checkpoints are far apart if you need to stop while playing

Minor Cons:

  • Lack of real options menu
red bot screaming
Noooooo!!!

The first thing I noticed about this game was the cute and expressive characters. The game focuses on Blue bot and Red bot who each have distinct personalities and means of expressing themselves. Personality from the characters is primarily told through body language and facial expressions. The characters are simple, somewhat childlike, and they like and dislike fairly basic things. They are sad when they get hurt or something breaks and they are scared by lightning. They are very empathetic of each other and often become happy or sad in response to the other. Although they each have their own hobbies they enjoy, Blue bot wants to explore and Red bot loves to draw and hit buttons they’re not supposed to. This makes for quite an adventure.

blue bot scolds red bot
Red bot has a learning experience

The majority of the story is told through lengthy cutscenes. In this way the game is somewhat like a kinetic visual novel, with opportunities to walk around and long puzzles interspersed. The cutscenes tell the story well and visually match the regular gameplay. However I did have a few issues with them. First was that cutscenes would often fade out and back in for no real reason. This was particularly noticeable in the early cutscenes when the fading would be done in order to move the character a couple feet over when it would have been faster if they just walked. I assume this was to cut down on animations, but given how much of the game involves watching these cutscenes it became pretty annoying. My second issue with cutscenes was that you couldn’t skip them. Normally I wouldn’t be bothered by this, but in this game it became an issue because of the length of the cutscenes combined with the rarity of save points.

red bot draws blue and red bot
Red bot is a lovely artist

There are just over half a dozen save points in the game. Saves are only done via save points, meaning if you need to turn the game off you’re stuck replaying everything since your last save. Save points aren’t necessarily directly after puzzles either, so you might want to stop after having defeated a puzzle but there’s no save point in sight. Also if you’re someone like me who usually takes screenshots with F12, don’t hit that button. F12 kicks you back to the main menu without a confirmation that you’re about to lose everything since your last save. The few times I accidentally did this, I found rewatching the cutscenes to be more of an issue than resolving the puzzles. Luckily the save points are pretty obvious so you’re unlikely to walk past them and forget to save.

blue bot is surprised
Oops!

Another point of refinement I would have liked to see in the game, would be an actual options menu. F12 is the only way back to the main menu, but the options menu isn’t there. F1 brings up a separate window with options, mostly limited to resetting key bindings for the in-game actions. This felt very unfinished and the menus weren’t entirely clear. For the keyboard, space and enter are bound to “C”. Whatever that corresponds to. This was probably fine for developers and beta testers, but isn’t very user-friendly to the player.

blue and red bot hide together
Lightning is scary

The main feature of Wanda is the adorable and emotional story between the characters. They face challenges that the player solves through puzzles and have little moments of joyous victories, such as getting a pet. There are lots of sweet moments between them as they look out for each other and cheer each other up. Despite the somewhat depressing setting of a post-apocalyptic robot world, the characters are incredibly positive and take the time to enjoy their explorative journey. I found myself smiling and going “awwww” several times during the game. The companions also learn about the history of their world and how it came to ruin.

yellow blob-like bots
A simulation shows the evolution of the bots

In addition to the story of Blue bot and Red bot, photo scraps are scattered around for the player to collect. They reveal the story of Green bot and Yellow bot. This story takes place before the end of the robot world and gives the player a little extra insight into what the world was like. Some of these collectibles are fairly well hidden, so players need to search carefully during scenes where they’re allowed to walk around outside of puzzles. There are 15 scraps in total making up 5 images. Scraps are not unique and the displayed photo pieces are always shown in the same order, so if you find scraps 1 and 3 but miss number 2 you will still see the first 2 scraps of the first photo. You will just no longer be able to collect a final scrap to finish the final photo, so completing Green and Yellow bots’ story means you can’t miss any of the collectibles in a single playthrough.

picture of green and yellow bot
The beginning of green and yellow bots’ story

Throughout the story background music effectively sets the tone and helps convey emotion to the player. This pairs with the emotional expression when the characters speak. Although the characters speak in robotic beeps, the tone for every voice snippet reflects the emotion they feel in that moment. If players are interested in the exact words in the dialogue boxes, the symbols they speak in can be decoded to English. But that is hardly necessary and players are likely to guess in most cases what the word being spoken is. Body language and facial expressions are used liberally to accomplish this.

blue bot attempts to speak with a car
Hello?

Although the puzzles took a backseat to the story, they were still good. Each one introduced some new mechanics and would allow you to control the two bots separately. None of the puzzles fit on one screen, meaning you often needed to remember what you had previously seen in order to know the full layout. Navigating the bots around separately allowed you to see how parts of the puzzles changed as a result of button presses. Most of the puzzles could also be solved in multiple ways.

swap between characters
Puzzles use both characters, whom have differing energy reserves

It was however pretty easy to get yourself in a situation where a puzzle could no longer be solved and the game would not notify you if this. If you reset the puzzle three times or more, the game will offer to allow you to skip it. With each failure you would learn more about what you had to do and you could plan a better strategy. Although on the last puzzle there was a lot of trial and error, and I recommend a pencil and paper. Also be very careful with energy, because if you try to use some and don’t have any it counts as failing the puzzle and you are forced to start over. Even if you could walk over to an energy orb and completely refill your energy.

blue bot stuck in a room
An easter egg dead end

Overall I found the game very sweet, cute, and adorable. Despite being frustrated with some of the mechanics early on, I came to be attached to the characters and wanted to know their story. Even though I knew what the ending was going to be before I got there, it still touched me. If the player is willing to accept Wanda’s rough edges, I think they can get a good 2 hours of play and some feels out of it.

Find this game at the publisher’s website or on Steam.

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