Version Reviewed: 1.0.2
Device Reviewed On: iPod touch 4, iPad 1
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Whale Trail is British studio ustwo's first true game. This fact is impossible to decipher just from playing it, because it nails pretty much everything that iOS games need to do. Players control Willow the Whale, who is trying to escape the evil Baron Von Barry, an Eldritch Abomination with a taste for whale. However, Willow finds a rainbow to ride, which allows him to fly through the skies. Tapping and holding on the screen causes Willow to fly upward, with a continuous hold allowing Willow to loop around after gaining some height. The goal is to collect bubbles which are strewn throughout the sky, increasing the whale trail bar that fuels Willow's flight while avoiding the dark clouds that reduce the multiplier and whale trail bar.
This endless runner game is very simple to learn; after the tutorial (which can be skipped!) and one play session, the mechanics will be understood. Visually, this game is a feast. It is extremely bright and colorful, and everything just seems like its full of character, and everything is animated and full of life.
The graphics and gameplay even have a unique interplay. The skies get darker once the whale trail bar gets low, which serves as a fantastic indicator of when danger is imminent, especially because I didn't pay much attention to the bar. The difficulty curve has been tweaked since the hands-on preview; game sessions now wind up being slightly shorter, which is actually a good thing, as it actually encourages replayability. They feel closer to that perfect length to where games last a satisfying amount of time, but not too long to where going back doesn't feel like an overly-long ordeal. Plus, the game is a 99-cent universal app!
It's actually very difficult to find much to complain about with Whale Trail. The multiplier system leads to odd scoring as the bulk of scores tend to be earned when the game is easier, rather than later when the multiplier decreases as damage is taken from running into clouds. As well, running into one cloud formation, like when descending from heights, can be suddenly deadly on even a run that's going very well.
Whale Trail is just an absolute joy. With mechanics that are nearly perfect, and a style that is difficult to out-do, this is a game that must be checked out by anyone who likes endless runner games, or anyone who just likes to feel happy while they play. This game is just fun.