Whales are highly intelligent creatures. Did you know, for examle, that orcas have learned to hunt and kill great white sharks by ambushing them from below and holding them in their jaws upside down near the surface they suffocate?
Whales really do that. Look it up. One things whales don’t do is leap out of the water onto a psychedelic rainbow trail and soar through the sky collecting stars and bubbles.
But that's exactly what happens in the crazy, if a little superficial, Whale Trail.
On the evolutionary tree of gaming Whale Trail is probably most closely related to Tiny Wings, although it doesn’t copy that game’s format outright as other titles have done.
You take on the role of a flying whale named Willow, whose aim it is to collect coloured bubbles and stay in the air for as long as possible. Fall beneath the clouds and you’re quickly devoured by a sinister ink-black squid called Baron Von Barry.
You keep yourself afloat in a similar way to that helicopter game everyone loves. Hold down X (or the screen) to fly upwards and release to let yourself fall. Or hold the button for longer to pull off a loop-de-loop. You can only go to a certain height, beyond which you’ll stall completely and plummet straight down.
There are storm clouds ready to get in your way, as well. Hitting too many of these in a row will paralyse Willow for a time, making her fall sharply to her doom or miss her precious bubbles. To compensate for this horror, there are star pick-ups that allow her to blast through these obstacles.
It’s not a particularly deep game. In fact, it can get tired quite quickly thanks to how easy it is to remain airborne just by tapping X quickly. Using the touchscreen is actually preferable simply because the dexterity granted by the physical controls actually sucks a lot of the challenge out of the game.
Still, what this mammalian adventure does have going for it is its colourful and kaleidoscopic art style. Every cloud, building, shape, and cosmic body is given a cheery or grumpy face as part of a bright world with a surplus of colour not seen since the 1970s.
Meanwhile, the audio is composed of Willow’s drawling remarks (“Hey, I can see my house from here!”) amid a song by Gruff Rhys that’s so chirpy and inoffensive it may as well be played on guitars made out of recycled hippies. Whale Trail is what would happen if Loco Roco took acid with Robot Unicorn Attack then met up with Tiny Wings for a ménage a trois and one of them had a baby.
The default Survival mode leaves you a little underwhelmed, with only achievements to chase after. But play enough and you'll unlock the first set of real challenges – limited levels with set scores to be achieved and the obligatory three-star system of reward and progress.
In the end, it’s a pity that the primary mode of Whale Trail is so shallow, but eventually the secondary mode makes up for this and the psychotropic visual style by itself is practically enough to save the game from beaching itself.