When offered to chance to review a game that features crazy neon design and futuristic space narwhals, does one even have a chance to say “no?” I don’t think so, and that means I’m here with a review for you.
Starwhal is a competitive multiplayer game that gives players a narwhal with a giant heart on its chest. You customize your creature and drop into a 2-4 player battlefield.
In the standard mode, each Starwhal has a set number of hits in its life. The spears on your heads are weapons, and the giant hearts on your chests are your weak points. As you swim about the arenas and slide and roll along the walls, your opponents will try to spear your heart. One touch means a hit point is lost and you’re that much closer to death.
Kill all your enemies, in the standard mode, and you win. The whole game is really easy to learn, and most player can pick it up and understand how to play within seconds. Survive, crazy future creature, survive.
Solo is No Go
Cutting straight to the chase here, whether or not you will enjoy Starwhal boils down to whether or not you have other players and controllers at your disposal. This is a local multiplayer game in the purest sense, and those looking for a mostly single-player affair won’t find it here.
Now, the developers have gone through the process of adding single-player challenges and a pretty decent AI for versus mode when swimming solo; however, you won’t get very far on these. The challenges are essentially single room activities, where you may swim towards an objective while dodging walls and obstacles in order to score the best time. They’re good for a few trophies, the challenges, but they don’t amount to much fun after about 30 minutes of play.
I don’t want to slam the game or the developers on this. They’ve been up front about how locally competitive this game should be. It was meant to be played in groups, and it passes that standard with flying colors. Solo? No. They’ve made the effort of including the padding, but it never amounts to much more than a quick distraction. It will make you desperate for friends.
As great as Starwhal is in groups, it’s not much fun when alone.
Multiplayer is Bliss
With all of that out of the way and said, we can get to exactly why this game works so well in groups. Starwhal is hard. The heart on your character’s chest is both hard for others to hit and hard for you to defend.
When playing with friends, things get exceptionally loud. You’ll yell at one another as you dodge insane spear attempts, and you’ll roll over one another as the camera slows down in order to emphasis just how close you were to losing a heart.
That couples with the pounding tunes, the neon-soaked presentation and the absolutely ridiculous costumes in order to make this a party game that I put alongside the likes of Samurai Gunn, another house favorite between my friends.
It’s fast, it’s energetic, it’s ridiculous and it’s actually challenging. One or two players in your group might figure out a few tricks that makes them a little better than the others, and that only ramps up how much fun the game gets when you have a dominating Starwhal with three others working together and aiming for their hearts.
Here, Have Some Diversity
To make that multiplayer effort even better, Breakfall really did a nice job coming up with costumes, modes and arenas to diversify your evening of couch-based competitive play.
There feels like a zillion different colors, head and chest pieces to slap on your character. They’re all downright ridiculous, and they’ll give you a sense of independence as you’re spearing your friends in play.
Then there are the four separate modes, each bringing a unique twist to what would otherwise be a bit too simple. I like the classic versus mode, but the zone holding and score attack stuff breaks up the action enough to keep people playing.
Then there are the 25 arenas. These aren’t just boxes to battle in with different colors in backgrounds. Instead, they might feature uniquely shaped walls that make defending harder or easier, or, and this is my favorite, they’ll sport bounce pads that send your Starwhal flying when contact is made. I liked that latter bit because mastering it made me a lot harder to kill in battle.
Like I said, the single-player stuff here isn’t compelling enough to make Starwhal something worth buying if you only game alone. However, Starwhal stands as another really great entry in the recent wave of fantastic local multiplayer offerings. I mentioned Samurai Gunn before because it’s always in demand when my gaming buddies come over. I see the same happening for Starwhal.
If you game in groups, pull the trigger on this one. It’s absolutely nuts, but it’s easy learning curve, wealth of content and humor make Starwhal a blast for group play.
A review code for Stawhal was provided by the publisher for the PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.