I often find myself humming catchy pop songs after hearing them briefly on the radio. It's not as if they have any deep, meaningful lyrics or a powerful message attached, they're simply fun to listen to and somehow force you to hum them over and over.
Whale Trail is the gaming equivalent of one of those songs, it's bright, colourful and fun, but doesn't really do very much beyond that and yet it sticks in your mind and makes you smile. It's also suitably equipped with a theme song of its own, sung by Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals fame.
The story is cute and just a little bizarre; Willow the Whale is quite happily swimming about in the sea when an evil squid, called Baron von Barry, tries to capture him. Finding the end of a rainbow, Willow manages to get into the sky for safety, but has to collect bubbles to stay up, while avoiding the Thunder Bros (dark storm clouds). Cue 60s rainbow effects and grumpy looking clouds.
As the game begins, you find yourself helping Willow by collecting bubbles and avoiding the storm clouds. A one-touch control system keeps things simple as you press to launch Willow into the air and let go to let him fall. Holding the screen will allow the whale to do a loop the loop (complete with comments like 'I can see my house from here'), helpful for catching more bubbles.
In addition to the bubbles, stars are dotted around the screen, often along the same path as the bubbles. Once enough of these are collected you enter a frenzy, which allows Willow to blast through the Thunder Bros and collect all the bubbles in the area. Speed Boost areas, marked with a whirl, enable the finned hero to soar further into the air and collect extra bubbles, all the time adding to your multiplier which continues to grow as you collect more objects.
The multiplier is the key to scoring in the game and also to the game's longevity over the simple gameplay and short number of courses. As you collect bubbles your meter fills. Stop collecting and the meter runs out, sending your poor whale towards the waiting arms of the squid. Once the meter is full, the multiplier takes over, going from 2x to 4x and onward. Hitting a Thunder Bros cloud knocks it back down, as does letting your meter run low. Achievements are unlocked for multipliers and high scores can be measured across the world.
While the perfectly balanced scoring system encourages replays, it's really the presentation, effort and generally cute 60's vibe that makes Whale Trail stand out, alongside that instantly memorable soundtrack from Gruff Rhys. Whale Trail is a refreshing blast of multicoloured fun that will brighten up even the darkest day.
- Sound: 10
- Graphics: 9
- Gameplay: 9
- Longevity: 9
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