I have seen quite a bit of gameplay from STARWHAL, but really had no idea what it involved apart from its unique neon style. I’m reviewing this for the Wii U, but its available for the PC, PS4 AND PS3. There is currently a huge resurgence of games that heavily feature local multiplayer. STARWHAL is an indie game from developer Breakfall.
The basic premise of the game is about taking control of ‘space narwhals’. The game has a variety of levels, across 4 different game modes. The game features both a single player mode, as well as a multiplayer mode that includes up to 5-players, a feature exclusive to the Wii U version. In most of the game modes you will be trying to use your horn to stab the heart of your opponents. Others have you hitting targets and guiding yourself through maze-like levels. The main feature of the game sees you battling in an arena, trying to take each other out. As you control your STARWHAL you can propel them forward and move the horn up and down causing your character to flop around. Controlling your character does take some getting used to, but once you get to grips with the mechanics, you can start to guide your character about.
STARWHAL certainly is a quirky game, that doesn’t take itself too seriously and that’s great. The gameplay is fairly fun, but I felt that the STARWHAL’s themselves lacked character considering the illustrations you see on the main menu look far more interesting. The game is fun at first but there’s not much too it and after a short period of time it becomes a bit repetitive and mundane. Each player is given a wide range of cosmetic options for your narwhal. You’re given the choice to change the narwhal’s appearance through color, head type, and body costumes, which offer different options. The main mode is basically a death match mode. I leaned more towards the other modes as they offered more variety, such as
Score Attack, a match that involves “tagging” other narwhals hearts. The Wii U exclusive mode is fairly interesting and is called Blastopus. You use the gamepad to attempt to blow up the other Narwhals.
The game has five different levels, which include: Spacetopus, Fopicron, Magnus, Asteriod X and Forsaken. Each stage is unique in its own way, and they have a retro, neon/ disco like feel. The stage’s will always have the same background, but the neon grid will change based on what sub-level you choose. I enjoyed the ability to mix the game up a bit in terms of style, but really it would have been nice to have seen a bit more variety in terms of gameplay to keep things fresh.
Some people might be put off the game at first because of the quirky controls, but if you stick with it you will pick it up. The controls involve just the left stick to awkwardly move and the A/B button to accelerate. The multiplayer is great fun at times and is actually quite exciting, trying to pierce your opponent is tricky but satisfying! It’s a shame that the single player feels a bit hollow, as playing with friends is the best way to play. The single player offers two modes called Obstacles and Targets. Obstacles involves avoiding obstacles and guiding your character through each section. Whilst Targets means tagging all the targets in each zone. You are timed during each section and the aim is to do so as fast as possible to get a medal ranging from Bronze to Platinum. There are 32 different levels full of obstacles and other navigational hazards.
My favourite part of the game is actually its presentation. The art style and music in the game is fantastic and looks great. The game certainly has a retro 80’s vibe, with bright neon colours, and music to match. I would have liked to have seen a bit more personality in the game, like the Narwhals themselves, but overall the visuals are decent. As I said the sound design is also great, with catchy techno beats and nice sound effects that suits the game well.
Overall STARWHAL is a weird, quirky and vibrant game that looks great. Its fun to play with friends in short sessions, but unfortunately the gameplay quickly feels a bit hollow. The single player modes feel a bit tacked on and pointless. I would only pick this game up if you are looking for a game to play with friends once or twice. With a bit more content, care or additional modes this could have been a lot better.
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