Sometimes the best platformers you find are the ones you don't usually come across. While some of the best platformer series like Super Mario Bros., LittleBigPlanet, and Sonic the Hedgehog get worldwide recognition, there are even some indie platformers that cater to a specific, niche audience.
Games like Super Meat Boy and Cuphead provide players with sweat-inducing, challenging experiences while others like Limbo and Little Nightmares provide an atmospheric journey with unique narratives attached to them. But then there are some that you might not have expected; I'm talking about Whalien - Unexpected Guests, from developer Forbidden Folds.
A Charming, Eccentric Story
The story of Whalien focuses on Ernest Hemingwhale, a fixer who is the last remaining person inside a mechanical fishing vessel named Fin. The ship happens to have a sentient AI with the same name who contacts Ernest for his help in getting rid of some slimy creatures, called Squiddies, that have infiltrated the ship.
They are causing mischief and mayhem throughout the various rooms and levels within Fin, so it is up to Ernest to find the source of these Squiddies and restore Fin's operations back to normal.
Along the way, Ernest will encounter various robots called Springpeople that will occasionally help Ernest on his quest.
The premise is simple enough to follow without any convoluted plot twists or drawn-out expositions. While I didn't fall head over heels for its story, I did chuckle a few times whenever Ernest interacts with some of the Springpeople as you progress through the levels.
Simple, but Effective Puzzle Platforming
Players will move through the levels and progress the story by manipulating the objects around them. Ernest has these gloves that can push and pull objects at his disposal, allowing him to interact with the environment at any time. Both functions are operated independently through the use of the trigger buttons if you are playing on a controller.
As you advance through the game, you will unlock new abilities for your gloves that will change how you move said objects. You have Mr. Push and Mrs. Pull, which are pearls that you can send out at a distance to grab and pull different objects and elements within your proximity that can aid you in the game. The way in which you move and pull stuff is all part of the game's mechanics as it gets built upon as you proceed through the levels.
While you can gather up several objects at a time within the field of gravity generated by your gloves, sometimes the game's physics don't always work in your favor. The camera can get in the way whenever you are trying to pick up an object, for example, when you don't always get the exact object you wanted to throw. Also, there were several instances where the platforming would get wonky at times when the object that you are standing on will glitch and start freaking out. Luckily, those were the only issues that I encountered while playing through the game's full run-time.
Stunning, Vibrant Visuals
You will arrive at various environments in the game like a fishing village, a bathhouse, a pantry with a functioning kitchen operated by robot chefs, and a restaurant serving sushi. Those and others do an excellent job of showcasing the simple, but effective visuals that provide a bright, colorful cartoon-like palette.
You never get bored as you are progressing through the story and unlocking new levels. Each world contains stickers that give you further context on the story by providing some world-building facts. There are even fun diversions that have you helping the Springpeople, like finding a head and collecting an inflatable float for a robot to use to protect themselves from an incoming flood.
Each environment does a good job of letting you use your glove abilities to push and pull objects together, letting you progress to get to the next area. There is some challenge in figuring out where you need to go next, but you usually find the solution fairly quickly.
After finishing the game, I would recommend it to anyone that likes to experience simple indie platformers with some straightforward puzzle-solving. This is definitely the kind of game that you would want to play when you just want to experience some relaxation after playing some intense matches of CoD or getting stuck by a challenging boss in Elden Ring.
One note of warning: you can beat this game in around 2-3 hours with very little replay value, so you might want to wait for a sale on Steam to pick up Whalien.
Still, if you need a game that you can unwind and chill out with, then you can't go wrong with playing Whalien - Unexpected Guests.
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