By Hariz B.
Gaming hasn’t been having a good time. Lots of people are talking about how it’s so problematic these days. Money is ruining quality, games all look the same, sequels are spoiling franchises – the number of issues gaming has is endless. The future of gaming looked bleak. It got less exciting, as games just got less fun.
The casual side of gaming however is one that has been spared from much of the drama. Casual gaming isn’t as messy or convoluted, and people just don’t think so much when it comes to casual games. There’s hardly any intrusive scrutinizing or too much brooding involved. Developers make them, and people responded. People reviewed and played the good ones, the bad ones (and there are a lot of bad ones) they simply delete after playing.
It’s this simplification that makes casual games so great and addictive, curiously more addictive than many console games these days. I found myself playing Whale Trail Frenzy so much that I wasn’t even thinking about this week’s release of Kingdom Hearts 3D, a game that I had been so excited about a few months back.
Whale Trail Frenzy is a game developed by USTWO. In the game you play as Willow, a rainbow-farting whale who collects bubbles to stay afloat and escape the evil, tentacled clutches of the monster lurking underneath. A meter on the top left-hand corner of the screen displays how much gas Willow has – fuel depletes as our flying marine friend continues to excrete his colourful flatulence. Collecting the bubbles fills up the meter.
Along the way there are bad clouds called the “Thunder Bros” that impede your progression and characters called “Goodies” that spit out bubbles to give you a fighting chance at survival. There are also star collectables, which will send Willow into an invincible frenzied state when sufficiently accumulated. Willow is able to punish the evil clouds and disintegrate them when in ‘Frenzy’ mode.
I just read whatever I typed in the previous paragraph and god does it sound absolutely ridiculous. How on earth did the developers think of such a concept? I am baffled by their creativity, but you know what’s even more baffling? It works. After I found out about it from my friend I kept playing it again and again and before I knew it I spent an hour on that damn game, before I stopped to take a break (I’d continue playing it for the rest of the day after that).
What makes it work? Maybe it’s the irresistible visuals which are so colourful. The mountainous background blinks at you with huge eyes and grins sheepishly as you fart your way as far as possible. Perhaps it’s the character design, how you only see Willow’s right eye as he flies through the air, which somehow adds to his appeal. Not to mention all of his unlockable friends of other whale species (there’s a Narwhal guys. A flipping Narwhal).
Or it could just be the game’s simple controls. Hold the screen to increase the intensity of Willow’s colourful farts and make him rise to a certain height before he runs out of airtime and does a loop-the-loop. At the very top, Willow even says “I can see my house from here!” As if he wasn’t cute enough already.
I think the beauty of it all is, I can’t even pinpoint what its appeal is. I don’t even know what makes it work, and since I’m having so much fun playing this thing, I don’t think I even care. I’m having so much fun, and not all games you play these days allow you to do just that. I could lament about how it’s so sad that the fun factor is such a rarity. I could churn out paragraphs about how gaming is dying and so much of everything is spoiling it and how developers need to save it before it’s too late.
Or I could play this game ten more times to get enough Krill (yeah that’s the currency they use. Flipping krill) to unlock the next friend of Willow’s. The Narwhal costs 10,000 krill and I’m almost halfway there.
Whale Trail Frenzy is available on the Google Play Store and on the iTunes Store. For free.