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PAX East 2015: Starwhal Review

by on March 11, 2015
 

Many games can never quite tell their full story in the title. To put all the blood, sweat, and tears that come with making a game into just a few words can be daunting. Will the audience understand the vision? Will the title hook them enough to see the trailer where they will learn the full story? Starwhal nails it across the board with a title that is exactly what it sounds like: narwhals in space!

Starwhal lands us in a mesmerizing world. A world where you become a neon space creature with a keen fashion sense, with iffy gravity standards, and an 80’s hairband inspired logo. Oh, and you have to flop your way around to stab your friends in the heart. Starwhal is local co-op at its finest and a pleasant reminder of how enjoyable and pure gaming on a couch with friends can be.

I crushed my first game on the PAX East 2015 show floor, being the best little highlighter green narwhal wearing a bear hat that I could be. Playing with strangers was a blast as I tried to navigate the enclosed arena like I was playing a normal game where basic rules of physics applied. It was a nice attempt on my part and I managed to win even though there is nothing traditional about this game’s mechanics! You flip about, you flop about, you jettison yourself into space, but part of what makes Starwhal so fun is that you never have complete control over your character – and neither does your opponent.

Starwhal

The real fun started when I was playing the game with friends at home. Starwhal is local co-op only for up to four players but don’t let that stop you from picking up your copy on Steam or PSN. The game has numerous customization options ranging from time limits to game modes to the arenas. Combat your opponents while a floor of lava rises from below or face off in a colorful ball pit that slows your momentum down. I don’t recall the last time a game made me laugh until I cried. Starwhal’s willy nilly physics give you the illusion of control, making for lots of tense “oohs”and “ahhs” as you narrowly miss stabbing your enemy in the heart while another player oozes under the stand off and gets the point on both of you.

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Starwhal

In addition to that, Starwhal is also highly accessible to those with disabilities. Players can use either side of the controller or both sides to play, allowing them to grip the controller in a way that’s comfortable without compromising game play. Steps were also taken to help those with colorblindness. The whales in Starwhal have costumes to help make the silhouettes of each character more definable a midst all the chaos of the neon colored battlefield.

Starwhal is available now for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Steam. Buy the game, play with a few friends or even just one. The amount of fun you’ll have in one play through is more than worth the price of admission.

Score: 10/10