“Having a whale of a time” is taken to a whole new level as Breakfall’s Starwhal makes a gargantuan intergalactic splash on Wii U. But normal whales were clearly too dull for this psychedelic retro-infused love letter to the epic joviality of local multiplayer, that we’re placed in control of tusk-bearing narwhals instead of being left to unload any more superlatives.
Chaotic charm is to be expected from this Kickstarter success story, the Canadian indie taking their cherished project to the crowdfunding website in the hope that it could become “a bigger and better game.” 1,243 backers later and their hope was achieved, scoring three stretch goals in the process.
Boasts that their space narwhal fighting game has “already rocked the Internet” certainly aren’t unwarranted, which even saw YouTube sensation PewDiePie take the game for a swim. And now, more than a year since it graced Steam, Starwhal makes an appearance on Wii U.
It is a fitting experience for the Nintendo eShop and the console, presenting a gameplay experience that still lovingly revels in the delight of local multiplayer. Unlike anything that you have played before, Starwhal’s eye-scorching neon styling gives way to a seemingly basic gameplay concept that yearns to keep you hooked for hours.
The narwhals under your control aren’t the most responsive of creatures, an accurate representation that results in heightened hilarity as you wrestle to steer them in your desired direction. It makes Ecco the Dolphin look tame, the madness only encouraging more laughs as you quickly realise there’s more fun to be had in the shared experience of everyone struggling at the same time.
Developers are exploring such lack of direct control in numerous ways – Octodad: Dadliest Catch similarly coming to mind – but none have executed it quite so brilliantly. Several modes will occupy your time in Versus when playing against friends and family, with Classic challenging you to be the last narwhal standing and Score Attack seeing you aim to achieve the highest score. Control points must be dominated in Zones, while Heart Throb sees you nab a heart and then do your best to evade other players. Each works well and, while certainly low in quantity, provides plentiful fun in shorter gameplay bursts.
Throw in the Wii U exclusive Blastopus mode, and Starwhal soon becomes an even more attractive in its lure. Here, Breakfall explore the realms of asynchronous gameplay by exploiting the Wii U GamePad. Narwhals are pitted against the merciless Spacetopus, who, playing on the Wii U GamePad, places bombs that those on the TV screen must work hard to avoid. That five players can get involved once again adds to Starwhal’s mirthful nature, and Breakfall’s effort to present a mode that makes use of the hardware doesn’t go unappreciated.
As a single player offering, Starwhal presents a separate Challenge mode that splits into Obstacles and Targets. These see you avoiding and tagging objects respectively, and it serves as a welcome first port of call for anyone initially trying to get to grips with the game’s quirky control. It clearly indicates that Starwhal’s soul lies in multiplayer craziness, but lends the necessary room to practice.
Basking in a neon glow, Starwhal presents the chance for more memorable local multiplayer antics on Wii U. Incomparable to anything else that you have played, it takes joy in such fact to deliver an outrageous experience that provides fun for a whole crowd.
Version Tested: Wii U
Review copy provided by Breakfall