Balan Wonderworld: rain of positive reviews on Metacritic, but something is not back

Balan Wonderworld: rain of positive reviews on Metacritic, but something is not back

Balan Wonderworld

We have often spoken on these shores of the phenomenon of review bombing, a form of protest that sees a consistent number of users reviewing a game with negative opinions. Well, it seems that exactly the opposite is happening with Balan Wonderworld.

On the market on Friday, March 26, Square Enix's action platform has so far collected few reviews on Metacritic from the press, with fluctuating ratings : a 4 from VGC, a 5 from IGN France and an 8.2 from Video Chums. We are obviously faced with a divisive product, yet, as noted by VentureBeat journalist Jeff Grubb, on the review aggregator the User Score has skyrocketed. Until a few hours ago that of the Xbox Series X version amounted to an exceptional 9.5, a vote that was very much in contrast with those of the press. Now it has dropped a little, but very high and widely positive numbers can also be found for all the other versions.

Well, according to a first analysis, the high number of positive reviews would be attributable to a bot. The reviews feature signatures and a writing style that are very similar to each other, a detail that makes us trace the work to a single person. We're certainly not saying that Balan Wonderworld can't please players, but we think what's happening on Metacritic is pretty suspicious. Balan Wonderworld, remember, is available on PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S, PC and Nintendo Switch.

Balan Wonderworld gets day one patch to fix ‘potential flashing bug’ posing an epilepsy risk

a close up of a toy © Image: Square Enix

Balan Wonderworld, a new game from two of the original creators of Sonic the Hedgehog, is out today. But before you jump into the game, make sure you’ve installed its day one patch. It fixes sequences in a “potential flashing bug” that could present a seizure risk. On Thursday, a video of the game’s final boss fight was uploaded to YouTube, and in it, there are occasional moments where the entire screen is taken over by rapid white flashes without warning.

“We have received reports of a photo-sensitive epilepsy risk from a potential flashing bug if playing the game un-patched,” the Balan Wonderworld account said on Twitter. “The Day 1 Patch prevents this issue as well as enhances the overall play experience.”

The patch comes after Game Informer editor Liana Ruppert wrote about the dangerous video on Thursday. You might recognize Ruppert as the person who wrote about experiencing a grand mal seizure while playing Cyberpunk 2077 ahead of its release, which led developer CD Projekt Red to release a patch a day after the game’s launch making changes.

Ruppert said people informed her of the Balan Wonderworld video on Thursday, and when she began watching it, “I immediately had to shut it off. Instantly, my right side dropped, and I could feel the onset of an episode.”

She then made a PSA on Twitter about the video and heard some scary stories from others who watched it — even from people with no prior history of epilepsy.

Since that tweet went live, I’ve had numerous people reach out, including developers and other QA devs, saying that they aren’t even epileptic, but they felt “odd” after watching. My husband, who had no prior issues with epilepsy or neurological triggers, complained of feeling dizzy before he threw up. Several others reported the same.

I also watched the video in question yesterday and again while writing this article. My eyes have hurt for nearly an hour, and my stomach is a little upset even after just watching it in a small window on YouTube. I can see how someone at risk of seizures might be particularly vulnerable if they were playing the game on their TV at home and this bug happened. (I am not linking to the video because, in my opinion, it is just that bad.)

Typically, there are many opportunities to catch this kind of bug, such as in QA testing or through the platform certification process. Somehow, though, this seemingly dangerous bug seems to have slipped by all of those potential checks.

I will give the Balan Wonderworld developers and publisher Square Enix some credit since they’ve already addressed the issue with the day one patch. And CD Projekt Red also acted swiftly to fix Cyberpunk 2077. But these shouldn’t have been issues in the first place, and developers, publishers, and platform holders need more stringent processes to ensure that their games don’t present health risks.