For the past few months, I've been looking forward to the release of Baldo The Guardian Owls, a Zelda-like adventure created by Italian developer NAPS Team with an art style inspired by Studio Ghibli. Sounds amazing, doesn't it? However, after spending over 13 tedious hours struggling through glitches and horribly designed gameplay on my Nintendo Switch I can't go any further. Neither can I recommend the game to anybody on any platform in its current condition.
It hurts me to say negative things about this game, because I think it could be something special. The characters are charming, the puzzles are incredibly fun, the dungeons awake my imagination, and the artwork looks absolutely beautiful. These elements have worked together and pushed me to play much further than I would have with any other game that had caused me this must frustration. But the frustrations are in abundance.
For starters, Baldo's battle movements are incredibly sluggish. He'll swing his sword and then take a full second to slowly get back up into a standing position before being able to move again. This leaves him open for attack from far more agile enemies and bosses, some of which can hurl seriously damaging projectiles.
Not to mention, most enemies can one-shot kill him. Far too often, Baldo gets hit by an enemy but doesn't recover from the hit before getting struck again. This effectively makes it so getting hit once is usually a death sentence. I don't even know how many times I died in that 13+ hours, but it must have been in the hundreds and it always felt unnecessary. If I didn't have a better temperament, I would have thrown my controller across the room several times.
To NAPS Team's credit, Baldo always respawns quickly from the last door or entryway he's gone through, so I was always able to get right back to my task. However, in an action adventure title where your split-second decisions are important, this slow movement is unacceptable and downright frustrating. I also did notice the game lagging in several moments during both gameplay and cutscenes. I usually don't care about framerates and things like that, but this was very noticeable.
Another problem is figuring out where to go and what to do. I was surprised by how big the map was when I started playing. There are so many sidequests, locations, and NPCs to interact with. However, the game does a horrible job of supplying hints to let you know what's expected of you next when it comes to the main storyline.
I spent a lot of time just wandering around confused until I got lucky enough to find myself at the next dungeon. Granted, that's how some Zelda games are, but they at least give you some kind of dialogue or information to go off of. Additionally, the in-game map is not designed well and makes it difficult to know how to get anywhere. Plus, tree foliage and other objects obscure my view to a debilitating extent, making exploration even more difficult.
Now onto the biggest problem. From the moment I started this game, I noticed horrible glitches. Now one glitch did work in my favor. A merchant wanted me to trade a special fur with him in exchange for winter clothing. I told him I had the fur even though I didn't and his dialogue made it clear that he was aware of the fact. Even so, the clothes showed up in my inventory. But most of the glitches were far more annoying: items falling through the ground, NPCs repeating dialogue on loop without me pushing any buttons to make it happen, and even Baldo getting stuck in places he should have been able to stand, thus forcing me to restart the game. I was willing to struggle through these annoyances until I reached an absolutely frustrating glitch that made me say, "no more."
There's a puzzle where you're required to enter some prison cages in order to advance further into the dungeon. However, a major glitch makes it so that Baldo cannot pass into them. Or worse still, he'll randomly pass into the cages but then won't be able to leave them. In the meantime, respawning enemies in the room attack him and kill him easily while he struggles with that invisible wall. After several minutes of trying to get this puzzle to work, I looked around online and discovered people on various platforms were also having this problem.
Now, it's one thing to have an issue on one platform, but for this to be showing up on Nintendo Switch, Steam, and Apple Arcade? That's unacceptable. It's possible it's happening on Xbox One and PS4 as well, but I don't know for sure.
Some users have found a way around the glitch, but it didn't work for me. Either way, I came to the realization that even if it had worked, it was too late for Baldo. With so many basic glitches and flaws, I cannot in good conscience recommend this game on Nintendo Switch to anyone. It's far too frustrating and feels incomplete.
Time to say goodbye
I really wanted to enjoy this game and gave it several passes until I realized it just wasn't worth defending anymore. There's so much potential here, but unless a major patch is released to fix gameplay and glitching issues you should steer clear. It really does have good bones, but it needs a massive update.
Even as I write this I'm feeling a strong pull to jump back into the game. It has such a charming cast of characters, fun puzzles, and the world is beautiful. If there is a major update, I'll jump back in in a heartbeat. But until then this game is just a headache.
Rebecca Spear is the dedicated gaming editor for iMore who loves playing games on Switch and iOS. She is a Zelda nut through and through and can also talk for hours about her favorite Pokémon games. She’s written hundreds of guides and reviews over the last six years to the point that if you get stuck in a game somewhere, she can help you out. On any given day, you’ll find her following the latest tech, digitally drawing with her iPad Air and Apple Pencil, reading a good book, or - you guessed it - playing video games. Follow her on Twitter @rrspear (opens in new tab) to see her post about her corgi, foster kitties, art, and favorite video game characters.
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