Hands-on with iOS endless flyer Whale Trail - the game Tiny Wings wishes it could be

Plus SFA's Gruff Rhys does the theme tune

Hands-on with iOS endless flyer Whale Trail - the game Tiny Wings wishes it could be
| Whale Trail

I cannot lie. I consider mills from UK studio ustwo a friend.

Sure, he's a peculiar friend: the sort who I'd think twice about inviting to my sister's wedding, let alone the ambassador's reception.

After all, he's not called Chief Wonka for nothing.

Yet, despite his love of lower case letters, Red Indian head dresses, trademarks, and long blonde wigs, he's a man who's prepared to put his company's money where his mouth is, which brings us the Whale Trail.

Ustwo has been making iOS games for a while now but, even by its own standards, it's not taken the task very seriously. Some of its games have had potential that the studio seemed happy to laugh off.

That's not the case with Whale Trail: it's about ustwo taking the process of making games very seriously.

Down to work

Yet, in many ways, Whale Trail keeps things very simple. It's a straightforward 99c/69p game without in-app purchases.

"Call me old fashioned, the last time I looked, gaming was about art, playability, enjoyment and fun, not about complex ways of getting users to spend money on items that don't actually exist in the real world," is mills's opinion on the matter.

The gameplay is simple too. In the way of journalists, I'm currently describing it as 'the game Tiny Wings wishes it could be', or more comparatively, Tiny Wings meets Mini Squadron with a bit of Rolando's style thrown in for good measure.

The Tiny Wings bit is the easiest comparison because the gameplay is the same undulating one-touch, so that when you touch the screen, your whale rises into the sky. When you lift off, it dives down, and when you hold down for long enough, the whale will do a loop the loop; that's part of the Mini Squadron comparison.

The other bit - and this is similar to Rolando - is the very high quality of the game presentation, in terms of attention to detail over art, user interface, and especially audio.

I'm guessing the Whale Trail song - performed by Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals - could get annoying after a couple of hours, but it's okay for now.

Diving deep

In terms of what the game's about, it's an endless movement experience, in which you fly your undulating whale in the sky, avoiding clouds that will electrocute it, while trying to collect the colourful waves of bubbles that keep you flying.

That's because as you fly, you create a colourful whale trail of your own; hence the title.

You also get to collect stars, which will build up to a frenzy whereby the scary clouds go all sad as you can now fly through them, popping them and gaining points in there process. Of course, the frenzy doesn't last for long.

So, if you fly into too many clouds, run out of trail, or sink too low off the bottom of the screen (and get captured by evil Baron Von Barry), it's game over. You're ranked on the total time you spent flying, the number of coloured dots you collected, and the number of clouds you smashed.

The game will launch with seven themed kingdoms to fly through, plus 23 Game Center achievements, and the promise of bonus levels. Indeed, we should also point out that the version that's been made available to the beta testers isn't complete and plenty of fine touches and additions are promised.

Whale Trail should be even better when it's out for iPhone and iPad on 20th October.

And here's a video of the beta in action.

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