Must I whip it?

I like indie games, and – like some others its ilk – liking WhipCrack requires perseverance. The early missions are laborious tutorials that teach you controls and basic gameplay mechanics. Tedious, yes, a problem complicated by the less than enjoyable gameplay. This might be alleviated if your sense of humor happens to match the tone of the game (mine doesn’t). If, however, you are part of that niche audience that finds their gaming heart won by the quirky offering, then by all means, crack that whip.

You control W.H.I.P., or Weapon Hazard Intervention Protocol and can direct the “master”, which looks like a UFO. The whip is cracked by using the right stick and A, though it cannot be cracked in rapid succession but instead collects a charge, sparking when really ready. Initial missions are painstakingly slow, frequently interrupted with tutorial instructions. The thoroughness is valuable in later stages, but I was so annoyed that I don’t think I would have stuck around unless I had to for purposes of review.

In each mission you try to clear the board while collecting a fixed number of charges with the larger objective of rebuilding a communications tower. Collecting charges involves whipping enemies to a suitable state then feeding them to the master, who ultimately absorbs the charge. You can’t take damage, but enemies will steal charge and an additional whip crack on an enemy ready for recycling will destroy them, also losing you the charge.

There are a handful of visually distinct enemies, like the red block enemy that will steal the charge from outside the master, or the leeching enemy that will take it in unrefined form. With each being easily distinguishable (plus ample in-game explanation) you’ll never be stuck wondering how you just got energy ganked.

While breaking down the enemies to their usable parts, time is not on your side – particularly as you advance to more challenging missions. Your arsenal contains more than just W.H.I.P., however, with bombs created by the master as well as upgrades you can acquire by accumulating charges around the master without tapping X to absorb them. Basically, upgrades are for the master, not your W.H.I.P. s.k.i.l.l.s. With that strategy component in play, the game is about more than whipping enemies, but since the bulk of your actions centers on that very mechanic, it’s not much fun.

Divided between single player and multi, the former touts nineteen missions as well as an unlockable expert mode. The increased difficulty predictably heightens the challenge, but I just don’t expect many players to be that hooked on the gameplay to value its inclusion. Multiplayer has five competitive missions for up to four players (local only) on the same screen. You can play solo if you want to try out the missions, but otherwise it’s not much fun.

On the aesthetic side of things, WhipCrack channels a more retro neon palette in 2D, which isn’t my favorite. The game logo was probably my favorite part. I do appreciate the font choice, as some retro style indie games go for unintelligible style over functionality. Oh, and in the spirit of avatar creation, you can customize your whip color. The sound was good though not a standout feature. The master’s dialogue stole the show, which is great if you also think the jokes are funny. It wasn’t my sense of humor – in general his voice is super creepy.

I don’t think there’s much replay value here because I’m still unconvinced of its play value. It’s challenging (good) and the game mechanics are interesting (also good), it’s just not particularly compelling (not so good). If the idea of playing as the W.H.I.P. interests you, give the trial a run. Or, if you have $3 to spare and don’t drink coffee, gather some friends round for some multiplayer.