The Platform genre has always been congested, ever since the dawn of the home console with interchangeable cartridges (Atari VCS) the sheer number of games that follow this model are numerous. So many in fact that to count them and prepare a list would be probably longer than working out the actual meaning of life… maybe. With so many systems and so many titles it’s always been hard to stand out from the crowd and get a new franchise or character based game into the hearts and minds of gamers. Very often a truly superb videogame just wont sell because another game with a better advertising spend or famous character was around at the same time. Life can be cruel.
Speaking of things that are mean and unfair I thought it time to venture into my XBOX collection once again, it’s been a while since I last completed a game on this system (Outrun 2) and being a console I have huge love for it seems weird that so much time has passed. With that in mind I sat browsing through the shelves looking for something I knew was just a little bit off the beaten track and very much like me (a bit out there…) it took me almost until the end of the alphabet but as I got to the letter ‘W’ a grin jumped onto my face and didn’t let go, it was time to escape a lab!
Whiplash is a platform game released in 2003 (2004 Europe) for the Microsoft Xbox and also the Playstation 2 console. Developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Eidos it’s extremely clear nod to their previous character franchise ‘GEX’ stands out a mile. Looking like a cartoon, acting like one as well it tells the glorious tale of two creatures chained together that are locked up in a scientific lab that does tests on animals. One day two such creatures, a Weasel called ‘Spanx’ and a Rabbit called ‘Redmond’ find themselves chained together but outside their cell. With what seems to be outside forces working towards their freedom our two heroes begin an adventure to get out of this prison and escape the numerous tests already done on them and the hundreds more yet to come.
With a fully controllable 3D camera you take charge of Spanx as he runs and climbs over tons of obstacles, sneaking past cameras and sensors and of course a massive army of security guards. In order to progress though, Spanx is gonna need to cause a bit of damage, by that I mean a crap ton of carnage. It’s a good thing then that his partner in this daring escape for freedom just so happens to be a bunny that’s completely indestructible. Having had more tests performed on him than any other animal ‘Redmond’ is essentially an unstoppable force, Spanx, being a weasel is how shall I say… A bit of a git! Destroying crates and all manner of scenery takes but a mere press of a button and off Redmond goes to fly head on at the problem. Feeling very much like a whip with a voice it’s not just incredibly cool and clever but astoundingly funny.
As a narrator speaks to the gamer and to the two animals through the adventure it’s sometimes gut bustlingly funny to just do stuff to hear poor old Redmond’s pleas of mercy fall on deaf ears. He cannot be hurt, he feels no pain but it’s just no fun being put through yet another electricity force field, well it is for Spanx and of course you, the gamer but at the same time as laughing you will absolutely feel a sense of sympathy for that poor fluffy bunny. His voice is amazing, he has that semi croaky high pitch thing going on and it’s just brilliant, Spanx is also extremely well voiced however it’s the muffled cries from Redmond that make playing this game a complete joy.
A devious and shady global company owner of ‘Genron’ who are responsible for the testing lab will stop at nothing to stop you from escaping and bringing attention to what happens there and the cut sequences not only convey the story exceptionally well but also break up the gameplay which due to it’s hack ‘n’ slash nature can get slightly repetitive. The game world itself is splendid with brilliant use of drab and dreary grey’s but also with gorgeous bright vats of ooze or flashing buttons on computer panels etc. The closest I can get to describing the look of it is to point you in the direction of the magnificent ‘Beyond Good & Evil’ game which at times shares it’s colour palette look, feel and design. There’s tons of things to interact with and destroy and even though enemies can feel very predictable and samey it’s the animation and use of the primary weapon (that poor cute Rabbit) that shines brightest here.
Rather than just having a standard level based game Whiplash manages to make one whole area seem very different as you progress showing a great level of attention to design detail. You know you are inside this massive research and testing lab but at the same time you never feel like you have had enough of it. The humour element somehow manages to even make up for the camera angle issues that all of these 3D games suffer from and Whiplash does have some of it’s own but none that stop you carrying on. It’s not the biggest game you will ever play however it does have some lovely hidden unlock-able secret stuff if you manage to cause enough monetary damage to the place on your escape to freedom, this is another great aspect of the general gameplay as it backs up smashing things to pieces, which in turn means more laughs at the Rabbit so it’s always win win.
Certainly not one of the best examples of the genre it is without doubt a charming game all on it’s own merit and is absolutely worth a play if stuff like Jak & Daxter are your thing. It did cause a ton of controversy when first released due to several Animal Rights charities voicing strong protests over it’s release and what they saw as the glorification of violence towards animals. Unfortunately like many middle class people who live in big detached houses with 3 cars they failed to see that this is a videogame not a poster to go do stuff like hurt a Rabbit but you can’t talk to 50 year old liberals, they are far too busy Sky +’ing Songs Of Praise. Needless to say gamers didn’t give a damn and although the press were a bit harsh on it we still got to see the final game and from a purely videogame point of view this one is pretty good.
My advice is to give it a go but of course don’t go out and throw a bunny under a bus cause that’s wrong and apparently I have to say this because people who play videogames don’t know right from wrong…
Verdict:- It will make you laugh, it will make you laugh ever harder and then it will do it all over again, that’s it’s best trick and it does it well. Playing Whiplash is like watching that guilty pleasure popcorn movie or re-reading that book you have browsed cover to cover numerous times. It’s not old or boring but comforting and warming.
It’s not going to redefine a genre, it’s nowhere near the top of the tree for games of this type but it does have numerous unique things about it and it’s fun. It’s hard to express how much I personally place fun above all else because in my eyes it’s a common sense thing to do, pity a ton of gamers now focus on frame rates. The Xbox and PS2 were the last hurrah for low res gaming and the end of the innocence era of same room gaming fun (for the most part) While everyone will always point to the God Of War’s or the Devil May Cry’s of the world spare some thought for a Weasel and a Rabbit because Animals have feelings too.
Second Opinion:- Fluffy things running through a giant lab sounds like something a Robot would not be able to understand but damn it if this 'bot don't feel that little wabbit's pain.
Get's a bit samey after a while and unless you enjoy slapstick humour it's gonna get old real quick, good job I have the sense of humour of a 10 year old then eh?
Transbot Scores:- 7 out of 10
Format: PS2/XBOX (Reviewed)
Region Reviewed: PAL
Year of Release: 2004