Upon looking at this title, I was immediately reminded of Kirby’s Adventure as I’m sure most were. Whipseey and the Lost Atlas definitely channels the lighthearted nature of Nintendo’s pink hero aesthetically but there is a surprising level of challenge that leans more on the unpolished side of things. I played this on the Switch, which so far seems like a solid way to play this quick, inexpensive retro throwback.
The story of Whipseey is conveyed in a simple cutscene where a boy named Alex (a pretty good name in my book) discovers a book that transports him into a fantasy world and changes his body to a squishier state. In this form, our character is known as Whipseey, a hero that sets out to discover the Lost Atlas and hopefully return to his home.
Whipseey and the Lost Atlas is a platformer through and through akin to something like Kirby’s Adventure or even Mega Man on the NES. Each area has a door to reach that leads to another area until finally hitting a boss to complete the level. This makes it feel like a bunch of strung together challenge rooms, rather than a more cohesive world like say Super Mario World or Donkey Kong Country. I was able to clear three or four levels over the course of a few play sessions before putting it down (more on that later) and it seems like there were only a few more left.
With Whipseey, players can move, jump, bounce off enemies to stun them or dispatch foes with a whip. This attack feels a bit like the yarn whip in Kirby’s Epic Yarn but the level of control is stiff like something out of the NES Castlevania titles. It’s not as snappy as I would have liked it to be. The whip can also be used to swing across gaps on pegs and Whipseey can swim around in water areas. Underwater control is not great and resulted in a string of cheap deaths thanks to the maze of instant kill spikes I ran into.
Each level ramps up in difficulty by presenting challenges in enemy design and placement mixed with stage layout. Level design feels deliberate and it’s clear some thought was put into the game’s pacing. However, in my playthrough I always felt like something was off with the way Whipseey controls and that many of the jumps were not thoroughly playtested.
As alluded to above, the whip just doesn’t feel right. There were many moments where I would try to jump and attack an enemy stationed on a platform across a gap, only to get nicked by the foe’s hitbox which then knocked me back into the pit. This wouldn’t be such a big deal but Whipseey and the Lost Atlas has a traditional life system and the constant dropping into pits ends up being more like the “token taker” days of arcades.
Losing all lives sets the player at the start of the level, meaning they’ll have to fight all the way back and execute problem areas perfectly, just to make it to the boss that will more than likely crush them due to not knowing the patterns.
I cannot stand how knockback frequently hinders progress in Whipseey and the Lost Atlas.
This is why I think this title could have used maybe another month or two of testing and polishing. At the very least there could’ve been more checkpoints. Since it’s such a small project, it makes these issues stand out starkly as this is the core experience.
Each area should have felt challenging but possible if that’s what they were going for. I spent nearly two hours trying to get through one particular jump that involved bouncing on two enemies to cross a pit. In a game like Shovel Knight this type of challenge is fun and rewarding but in Whipseey it is an exercise in frustration. It doesn’t help that this section of the level is in the last quarter, making it that much more of a grind to get back to, only to game over in a few minutes.
Aside from these glaring game design issues, Whipseey and the Lost Atlas is a cute platformer with obvious inspirations. Enemy design is neat, even if boss encounters feel uninspired. The game’s music is probably the biggest achievement; there are calming tracks with a lot of pretty melodies. Honestly, I would put this soundtrack in during a study session or while sitting on the deck with a coffee any day.
Whipseey and the Lost Atlas looks and sounds like what I would want in a game emulating a classic platformer, but it lacks the finesse that made those platformers great to begin with.
More information on Whipseey and the Lost Atlas can be found on the official website. A digital copy of the game on Nintendo Switch was provided for the purpose of review.
For more Marooners’ Rock reviews, check out my take on the frantic Lapis x Labyrinth or the Castlevania-inspired Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. I was also recently at PAX West and we’ve recognized six indie games in our annual awards for the event.