bhlaab's Whiplash (PlayStation 2) review

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Swing and a Miss

Whiplash isn't a bad game, it just seems that way a lot of the time when you're playing it. I like the premise-- you're a weasel and rabbit who are chained together trying to escape an evil corporate laboratory. I like how mean-spirited it is without falling into the 'dark and gritty' pit of its vintage, even if the humor falls back on crutches like 'randomness' and meta jokes a bit too often. I like how you can do Devil May Cry-style launcher moves in combat. I love how the game is full of references to Enron and the crocodile hunter. But most of all, I liked breaking stuff.

The game world is filled with props to bust apart by slamming your rabbit into them. Doing so is kinetically fun in and of itself, but Whiplash adds a fun twist. A running tally of the evil company's net worth in dollars is shown through the entire game, and each smashed object is deducted from the total in real-time. This ties into the overt themes of corporate rebellion through chaos wonderfully, and also adds a feeling of purpose to the already inherently fun activity of smashing apart objects in a video game. I got a minor thrill when, in the final hours of the game, I had finally whittled the company's net worth below the sum of my bank account. If there's a saving grace to this game, it's breaking stuff.

Things get rough during the times you're expected to do actual platforming, though. The camera is pretty awful all around. It moves slowly, gets stuck on things, and doesn't show the action well. The controls are a little stiff, which wouldn't be a huge issue if the camera wasn't providing you with such sketchy angles. At times it actively obscures the next point of interest and refuses to allow for adjustment. Platforming challenges themselves are more tedious than enjoyable, with a missed jumps often erasing minutes of progress through obstacles that were annoying enough the first time around. Timed obstacles take an oddly long amount of time to dissipate, leaving you stuck waiting. In less orderly levels such as the waste dump and the engineering parts of the lab, player collision will often not play nicely with the level geometry. Attaching to things like grapple points can be a crapshoot, as the soft lock-on will sometimes fail. Worst of all, the act of jumping from one platform to another simply does not feel very good.

Overall, the game does a poor job of pointing you in the right direction and has a habit of obfuscating puzzle solutions. There's a minor metroidvania component to the game, which seems less like an opportunity for the player to explore and more like an opportunity for the developers to pad the length of the game with a bunch of mandatory backtracking. Just about every single major room in the game is separated by long, boring hallways full of lame laser-dodging challenges that further slow things to a crawl. To put it bluntly, Whiplash puts a lot of effort into wasting your time and it's hard not to compile a lengthy mental list of basic errors in game and level design before you're done playing.

TL;DR
It's a lot of fun bust apart the environment and bludgeon employees, but the overall structure of the game is confused and platforming is dire.

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