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WHALIEN - Unexpected Guests (PC)

WHALIEN - Unexpected Guests (PC) - Review

by Paul Broussard , posted on 12 March 2023 / 2,445 Views

As I get older, I think I’ve learned to appreciate taking a break now and then. I certainly have to when it comes to partying nowadays, but even with video games, it’s essential to take a step back and let your nerves cool off. And after a month that featured a mixture of space zombies, alligator-related mental trauma, and a bunch of rhythmically-inclined death robots, it was time to give the senses a rest. Fortunately, WHALIEN - Unexpected Guests was happy to do just that.

The plot of WHALIEN (very clever name there guys) is a simple affair. You play as an old captain, Ernest, who is supposed to be helming a mechanical whale that serves as a transportation vessel for other people. Unfortunately, your mechanical whale has been infected by some black goop aliens and isn’t working properly. It’s up to you to traverse the mechanical whale and attempt to fix problems that you come across while primarily seeking a way to the blowhole where, hopefully, a lasting solution lies.

Gameplay takes place from a third person perspective and, at first glance, appears to involve mostly platforming around the inner workings of your mechanical whale friend. The controls are pretty simple: the analog stick is used to move around and there's a button to jump. The physics feel pretty fun; while the way that objects react and move around the environment isn't exactly realistic, they’re enjoyable to mess around with, and that’s really all you can ask for.

The twist to gameplay comes into play with the gravity manipulation tools at your disposal: gloves that allow you to pull and push items. Later on, you gain access to throwable orbs that allow you to do the same things, albeit without having to stand still and focus on them. In that respect, that initial perception of WHALIEN as a platformer might not be the most precise. It feels more like an old environmental/physics manipulation game from the early 2000s, back when Half-Life’s gravity gun and physics engine were blowing everyone’s minds. After the aforementioned orbs are obtained, pretty much all progression revolves around finding the objects that need to be moved around a room in order to create a path that you can walk, run, or jump over to reach the next area.

All of this sets up WHALIEN as a reasonably entertaining puzzle-solving game with tools that have a lot of potential. That said, I do wish the game was willing to push them a bit farther than they’re used here. I do understand the desire for a more stress-free, relaxed experience, but I think there was room for some optional side content that really pushed these ideas to their limits. As it stands, it feels like we’re getting handed the keys to a Porsche (or, at least, a very nice Civic), but only being allowed to drive it in a school parking lot.

WHALIEN's value is a sticking point as well. I’m not opposed to shorter games as long as they’re priced appropriately, but at around only 2-3 hours of playtime, it feels pretty hard to justify WHALIEN's $20 price tag. This could have potentially been justified if the game contained more complex mechanics, or challenges to really push the existing ones to their limit, but there’s just nothing present along these lines. Again, I understand the desire to create a more relaxing experience, but it feels like a hard sell to charge $20 for a game that feels relatively barebones.

Aesthetically, WHALIEN looks solid enough. Performance runs fine on PC, maintaining a solid 60 FPS throughout. I don’t find myself drawn to the game’s art style in the same way I have other titles going for a “cute” aesthetic, though, like A Hat in Time for instance. The music and sound design are also competent, and the little noises made by characters in place of voice acted lines are charming, but there's not much of note beyond that. 

All in all, you might enjoy WHALIEN if you're looking for a game that will serve as a low-stress adventure and which probably won’t tax your head or your fingers. Even for that crowd, though, the price point is a little hard to swallow for the amount of content available, and it’ll be a short term distraction at best. Conversely, if you’re looking for something that will force you to really think or will challenge you in some way, then your money is best spent elsewhere.


You will probably like WHALIEN - Unexpected Guests if: You're looking for a very laid-back game with some light physics elements.

You might like WHALIEN - Unexpected Guests if: You like cutsey, 3D platformers.

You will not probably like WHALIEN - Unexpected Guests if: You're looking for something to really challenge your platforming chops.


VGChartz Verdict


5
Acceptable

This review is based on a copy of WHALIEN - Unexpected Guests for the PC

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