Whiplash Updated Impressions
We take an updated look at this wacky platformer from Crystal Dynamix.
At a recent press event, Eidos Interactive gave us an updated look at Whiplash, a 3D action adventure platformer currently in development at Crystal Dynamix. Whiplash centers on Spanx and Redmond, a weasel and bunny who have spent much of their lives as test subjects at the insidiously evil Genron Corporation. Genron uses many cruel varieties of animal testing for their various products, and many of these tests have left the animal population of the company scarred in multiple ways. Spanx's area of expertise was in electroshock, and his years of exposure to the shock tests have left him jittery and paranoid. Redmond, on the other hand, is far more levelheaded, despite being a product of tons of cosmetic testing. He was recently used to test an experimental damage-proof hair spray, and the aftereffects have left him impervious to practically all harm.
The story of the game picks up with Spanx and Redmond attempting to escape from the Genron laboratories while chained together at the wrist. The mechanic of having the two characters chained together is the ultimate focus of Whiplash's gameplay. In the game, you will be in control of Spanx at all times, with Redmond being dragged behind you. Redmond's role is effectively that of a tool and weapon, and you'll be able to use him in a number of unique ways. Redmond can be hitched in certain sockets found in each level, allowing Spanx to swing upward in a Spider-Man-like fashion using the chain that binds the pair together. The chain can also be used like a zipline when sliding down certain poles and comes into play when using Redmond as a weapon--Spanx's basic attacks involve swinging Redmond by the chain in practically every direction. The various attacks can be chained together to form combos, and performing these combos allows a special meter to build up. Once the meter is sufficiently full, you'll be able to trigger special moves, like a 360-degree sweep attack and the hyperbunny attack, where Redmond just begins destroying everything around you in a crazed fashion.
There are also a number of special attacks that can be performed by making use of the various equipment tanks found throughout each level. These tanks contain various elements that the evil scientists use in their work, including fire, ice, helium, and even radioactive waste. In order to use these elements, Spanx must shove Redmond into the tank, transforming him into a useful weapon or tool. For instance, using a fire tank will actually set Redmond on fire and in turn set ablaze any enemies that come in contact with him, and using the helium tank will blow up Redmond like a balloon, letting Spanx float to higher platforms. There will be multiple puzzles that can be solved only by using some of these special abilities.
The game's story structure is fairly open-ended, thanks to the overall level design. The Genron Corporation headquarters is a maze of different rooms, tunnels, and such, with only a few basic hub points. The game features a detailed map system that helps you keep from getting lost as you make your way through the game. There are 12 locations in Whiplash, with three missions a piece, including various laboratories, cafeterias, offices, and test facilities. Missions are assigned by a disembodied voice that originates from the mind of a monkey that has been subjected to so many tests that it has literally transcended reality into an almost godlike state. As you progress, you'll be assigned all sorts of tasks, usually in the vein of destroying as much scientific equipment as possible or freeing animals from their cages. These other animals can prove quite useful, as they'll help you through the game. For example, monkeys will attack enemies to keep them distracted while you do your dirty work, and elephants will act as platforms to let you reach high-up areas. You'll also find several minigames in and around the game's world.
The style and overall design of Whiplash is definitely of the zanier ilk, drawing inspiration from sources ranging from Warner Bros.-style slapstick to cruder humor comparable to the likes of Ren & Stimpy. The game's character models all have a pretty cool design, with some very amusing features and animations. Though the polygon count isn't nearly as high for some of the other animal characters, they're equally entertaining. There is also a nice variety of enemies to encounter as you play, including varying types of scientists, robot animals, security guards, evil lunch counter attendants, ninja secretaries, and gun-toting baddies in hazard suits. All of them are pretty creative in their execution and add to the quirky atmosphere of the game.
Whiplash has a few rough spots in its early state, most notably some rather prevalent camera and collision issues currently marring the otherwise entertaining gameplay. However, as a whole, the game seems to be coming together quite well, and it should prove to be another solid entry in the platform market. Whiplash will be out for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 this October.
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