Review: STARWHAL (PS4)

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Title: STARWHAL
Format: PlayStation Network Download (674 MB)
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Breakfall
Developer: Breakfall
Original MSRP: $11.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
STARWHAL is also available on PlayStation 3, PC, and Mac. Coming soon to Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Party games can be very tricky. For some reason a game can be a hit at one party and quickly discarded at another one. I mention this because at Midwest Gaming Classic (MGC) last year, people played this game and really enjoyed it and if you asked them their opinion it would be much different than mine.

Gameplay:
STARWHAL is mainly a two to four player game where you “control” a narwhal-like creature, although “control” is a very subjective term. Prior to each match you are able to customize your STARWHAL with various outfits and decorations. While the various outfits look really nice and some are really funny, the alterations are just cosmetic and do not affect gameplay.

While there is a single player aspect to STARWHAL, it is mainly meant to be played as a multiplayer game. The single player mode of STARWHAL is made up of two challenges: Obstacles and Targets. In Obstacles you try to move to the end of a maze while avoiding obstacles. You are judged on how quickly you are able to complete the level. In Targets you try to quickly hit moving targets in a level. Both of these modes are meant to act as training for the multiplayer modes.

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I really didn’t enjoy playing STARWHAL and it basically boiled down to the controls. Unfortunately I prefer slightly more responsive controls, whereas the controls in this game are very floaty. While some games can get away with part of the game having floaty controls, think of GTA games and their driving missions, a game like ModNation Racers couldn’t get away with it.

… there are a lot of different arenas to play …
Trying to hit a specific target or reach a specific location on the map is extremely difficult to do for no real reason. To me it just makes the game a chore to play. There are a lot of other great local co-op games out there that to me are better games. However as I said earlier, there were a lot of people who played it at MGC and loved it so your mileage will vary greatly.

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Besides the different modes there are a lot of different arenas to play in STARWHAL. With over twenty arenas, the developers took the time to make each one look and feel different. This is a big selling point since maps are usually the main reason players get tired of certain games.

… some of the best looking levels you will find in a party game …
While there is some variation in the different game modes, they are all done in by the sluggish controls. During one game of Zone Control a player was unable to get their STARWHAL into the zone just because of the controls. In Versus there would be times when the players just went around in a big circle.

Visuals:
One of the bright spots in STARWHAL is the visuals. The game looks like it is straight from the neon filled 80’s. Each level is bright and colorful, the backgrounds are beautifully illustrated, and the STARWHAL looks like an 80’s cartoon character. Every planet looks and feels very different. These are some of the best looking levels you will find in a party game. Each of the costumes look great and some of them are really goofy in a good way.

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Audio:
The soundtrack in STARWHAL is good and never gets too repetitive. The sound effects when you hit a heart or use the “taunt” button are also really good. The best thing to say about the audio is that it doesn’t detract from the experience and that is actually a really good thing.

… party games should be fun and easy to play …
Online/Multiplayer:
STARWHAL is a local multiplayer game that supports up to four players. Another nice feature is the ability to add bots to all the multiplayer modes. If you are unable to get four people together to play this game you can still fill out the opposition which is getting rarer in today’s multiplayer.

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Multiplayer modes include Classic, Zones, Score Attack, and Heart Throb. In Classic you try to stab the heart of your opponents with the tip of your horn and be the last player alive to win. Each player has a certain number of hearts and if their hearts have been depleted they are out of the round.

In Zones you try to control a specific space on the map. The longer you control it, the more points you score. Score Attack is when you are trying to tag your opponents a certain number of times to win. Heart Throb is a take on capture the flag where one person captures the heart and then tries to hold on to it the longest amount of time. One cool feature is the bullet time feature when you are close to stabbing an opponent’s heart, which kicks in automatically.

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Conclusion:
STARWHAL looked like it would be a great multiplayer game to play but I found the sluggish controls too much to overcome. To me party games should be fun and easy to play, and all the crazy moments that happened while we played STARWHAL always felt like they were an accident rather than something that happened due to the controls. Also as I stated earlier, when played at MGC people really enjoyed it so you might have a different experience from me.

Score:
6.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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