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LONG BLOG

Traveller In Playtime – Whiplash

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Whiplash is a 3D platformer developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Eidos Interactive for the PS2 and Xbox in 2003-2004. It was also made available on PS3 as a PS2 classic. In the animal testing facility of the mega corporation Genron, a weasel named Spanx and a rabbit named Redmond are chained together and about to be combined into one creature before they manage to escape confinement. Guided by a mysterious deep voice, they set out to free their fellow animals and destroy all of Genron before making their escape from the facility.

Cut Loose And Fight The Man

Whiplash is very much inspired by western animal cartoons at large. So much so that I can easily see it as an animated movie full of slapstick. The story as a whole isn't that interesting, as the cutscenes mostly exist to provide gags and introduce the next set piece or gimmick. The ending ties things up neatly at least, but up to that point, the gags are the only thing keeping the experience interesting.

And even then, the gags aren't that good. Or rather, they didn't survive the medium transition that well. In comedy, timing is everything and I find Whiplash too be too rushed in its cutscenes to make the most of its conceptually good gags. The animation on the characters is pretty messy, the 2D effects (like exclamation points or thought bubbles) are poorly integrated with the 3D scenes and scenes never take the time to slow down and let our two leads work off eachother properly. Spanx is large, dumb and mute, while Redmond is small, technically invincible and talkative. The interactions write themselves, but everything goes by so fast that you don't get time to appreciate the comedic value.

One last thing of note are the numerous hint boxes that appear throughout the game which have a really weird tone to them. They're written like the developers needed a way to clarify level objectives, but then decided to inject whatever snark and humor they could get away with. It's so strange to see help messages take on such a clear and kooky voice. Games either go the clinical message route or have in-game characters do the talking. But what we get here is an interesting middle-ground approach that sort of works. It's like what you'd write in a game jam for a joke and not a standard game release.

A Dollar Smashed Is A Dollar Earned

The main conceit of Whiplash is to ruin Genron as you make your escape. You accomplish this by smashing everything in your path using Redmond's handy head. I must give props to the sheer amount of care that has gone into the assets you smash. There are so many objects and a lot of them have have bits and bobs that fly off as you smash them. Sadly, there isn't much reason to be thourough when smashing things. There are few items that bar your progress, but beyond those, the only thing you get from breaking stuff is the immediate satisfaction of seeing Genron's corporate value get deducted for every thing you destroy.

I find this strange, since they could have easily tied the many boons you get (a few ability upgrades you get to pick between every two levels or so) to the amount of things you smash. But I suppose they realized that would make the whole experience more tedious, as you'd be incentivized to scour the large levels for anything that could possibly be destroyed.

Combat tries to be varied, but it never manages that goal. You unlock a decent amount of moves to play with, but you do not need to ever use them, as button-mashing until the Genron employee you're assaulting starts to block and then backing off to reset their stance is always the dominant strategy. Especially with how Redmond goes hyper if you attack enough to fill his meter. That's actually something you can use breakables for, but unless an enemy is right next to a bunch of stuff, it won't really help.

Knocking out people gets you Hypersnacks that you can feed to either Spanx or Redmond for extra health or attack power, respectively. It's a neat enough idea, but I find it stupidly easy to get enough to never really have to worry about dying in combat. It's not like I grinded or anything. I just picked up what I found and managed to aquire a lot of health in just the first few hours.

But no matter how many treats you stuff them with, it won't help you with the platforming, which is generally pretty good. Things are a bit awkward from time to time (making me think the game was released too early), but you still have access to a double jump, a hover move and chain swinging. It's basic stuff, but the latter levels are challenging enough to be interesting in spite of that.

Navigating The Corporate Maze

The Genron facility is gigantic, even within a singular level. These levels are so huge in fact that you're provided with proper 3D maps even! And while most of the game is clear enough about where to go, there came a few times where I just had to guess my way forward, which really killed the pacing.

Not helping matters are the ardous connective corridors between rooms that all look the same in a given level and just take forever to get through. I'm not even sure if they're used for loading, as the game throttles you with a door opening minigame at each end of them. I think they only exists in order to space out the large rooms and make sure they don't overlap, which is admirable. But couldn't you have at least made them easier to get through fast?

But those corridors are nothing when compared to the game's one major sin, which is the keycard hunt. At the end of the game, you are tasked with going back to EVERY OTHER LEVEL and entering a single small portion of it for a keycard you'll need to unlock the final area. Not only do they expect you to navigate between levels, but to also find the room you missed last time through. Said room is blocked by an ability you have since gained, but if you don't remember where it was, you have to make your way through each room and check! Had the game at least provided a mission marker or made it so the map shows unexplored rooms, it might have been excusable. But as is, it's just terrible padding for a game that doesn't really need it, since it has a fair amount of levels.

Final Judgement

MEH

- Welcome to my world, Enjoy your stay, But always remember, There is no return.


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About Kerrik52one of us since 3:12 AM on 02.28.2016

Greetings, one and all. I'm known as Kerrik52 around these parts and I'm Swedish dude with a bachelor's degree in computer science.

I play a lot of games, even the bad ones if they have something interesting to offer. I then write about them on this site for you all to read. I've written stuff about about a lot of genres, but if you need recommendations, I suggest my From Software Retrospective and my "Let's Bitch" series about the Souls-games. At present, I am writing weekly reviews, which is a fun exercise.

I also have a little Youtube channel bearing my name that mostly contains videos related to my blogs.

I'm mostly a character action game and JRPG player, but I try to keep my gaming diet varied. Here are some games/series I love:

Souls Games
God Hand
Resident Evil 4
Tales of
Ratchet & Clank
King's Field
Devil May Cry
Legacy of Kain
Spyro the Dragon
Ys
Shin Megami Tensei
Patapon
Legend of Heroes
Yakuza
Locoroco
Ape Escape

I have a very low standard for movies, but I have some favorites. These include:

Coraline
Tintin
The Secret Life of Walter Witty
Pooh's Grand Adventure
Scott Pilgrim VS the World

The last TV shows I watched were House, Mythbusters and Fringe.

Anime on the other hand, is something I watch a decent amount of. I like:

Symphogear
Jojo
Nichijou
WIXOSS
Black Rock Shooter
Nobunagun
Airmaster
Fist of the Northstar

I don't read very much anymore, but I like Asimov and Lovecraft.

Music-wise I'm an apostle of Dio and the German power metal scene. Other favorites include:

Gamma Ray
Iron Savior
Freedom Call
Dreamtale
Axel Rudi Pell
Edguy
Avantasia

Go ahead and share a piece of your world with me and I'll pay back in kind. Don't be deterred if I answer you in a wall of text though. I just can't help it sometimes.