The M-rated looter-shooter Borderlands games and their many DLCs have always involved three things: a wide variety of outrageous weapons; tons of trigger-pulling gun battles; and a whole bunch of quirky, funny characters and situations.
That collection can sometimes play out as very crude characters dabbling in edgy sexual themes and intensely violent clashes while uttering tons of profanity. But zany humor is always a part of the equation, too.
So, what then would a Borderlands character spinoff—dressed up like a fantasy-infused board game and dressed down to a T-rating—look like? Would it be Dungeons and Dragons with a loony twist? Could it be, you know, funny but … nice? Well, let’s take a look and see.
The new spinoff in question is called Tiny Tina’s Wonderland. And it’s a lot like Tiny Tina herself. She was introduced in older Borderlands games as a diminutive, loud and very unstable 13-year-old explosives expert. She may be climbing down the other side of crazy hill, but she’s never boring.
In this case we and two other quirky individuals join Tina in her lair to play a simulated tabletop game called “Bunkers and Bada–es”—a game that Tina, as the bunker master, is kinda making up as she goes along. (It’s all like boom, bam, kapowee, and Tina’s like, Waaah!)
So we spend time looking at the hodgepodge map she’s laid out and then dive game-within-a-game style into the action/adventure to beat the super evil (but very self-aware) baddie known as the Dragon Lord.
In this alternate-reality roleplaying board game, however, typical dungeon-crawling fantasy tropes are replaced with Borderlands-like absurd situations, gratuitous violence and hundreds of bizarre guns and bludgeons that pop up in chests scattered everywhere. You’ll find weapons that transform into tossed firebombs after firing, machinegun-like bow-and-arrow constructs, skull-cracking frying pans, etc. In a nod to the D&D trope, Borderlands-typical grenades and bombs are reshaped as spells that conjure up tornadoes or drop meteors and the like.
As Tina squawks out her bizarre game tale, it’s our job as the Fatemaker to take on quests and save the kingdom of Queen Butt Stallion (a magical diamond binicorn), while fighting off colorful and cartoony trolls, skeleton pirates, limb-ripping shrooms, fire-breathing wyverns and the like.
On the plus side, Wonderlands is very funny in odd and often unexpected ways. The characters are voiced by actors such as Will Arnett, Wanda Sykes and Andy Samberg, so the well-timed lines are recited with panache. And the gameplay is filled with constant rewards: upgrades and quirky weaponry that repeatedly give the action a new twist.
In spite of things being purposely reshaped as teen-friendly fare, however, this first-person shooter still contains loads of edgy content. For instance: Language may technically stay within the T-rated boundaries, but it’s still filled with uses of “h—,” “a–” and “da–it.” It’s littered with the British crudities “b–locks,” “ar–” and “bloody.” And one character is incredibly foul-mouthed, but all his f- and s-words (among others) are bleeped out by lute string plucks or other profanity-covering noises. There are crude references made to male genitalia.
We also hear many humorous verbal winks to sexual situations. A pair of gay skeleton pirates make comments about their love for one another. Some characters are depicted with exposed backsides. Other giggling and gagging elements abound, such as a quest to gather a pet’s feces.
Then, of course there’s all the trigger pulling and spell casting. The violence is dialed back and far less goopy than a regular Borderlands title, but it’s still plenty pounding. And there are some surprising moments such as when [Spoiler Warning] the diamond stallion Queen’s head is lopped off by a powerful sword. The frenetic spell-filled game moments of swarming zombies and demon like enemies can feel a bit dark at times, too.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderland is fun, funny and way less messy than a typical M-rated Borderlands game. But parents of prospective players should note that this title isn’t all cartoons and good clean rib-ticklers. There’s a crude side to the yuk-yuk adventures, too. It’s kinda in the game’s DNA.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.