The only time I thought I’d see something as crazy as a pirate riding whaleback would be in Pirates of the Caribbean. I’m so glad I was wrong. Guillaume Loquin’s Run-A-Whale transforms a crazy concept into a simple, explosively fun runner that looks so gorgeous Jack Sparrow himself would swoon. Imagine an ocean-bound Flappy Bird with colourful low-poly art, then mash it together with intuitive physics-based diving and you’ve got Run-A-Whale.
Each level runs on a procedurally generated backbone, and tasks you with navigating through an aqueous coin-filled obstacle course. Your aim is to collect as many coins as possible, which sounds like a breeze—at least at first. Once you factor in the randomised collection of piers, barrels, mines and physics-based controls, Run-A-Whale’s status as a challenging casual experience becomes strikingly apparent. Moving around is drop dead easy—tap to dive underwater, let go to come up for air. But staying submerged too long depletes your oxygen gauge (shown in blue on the bottom of the screen) and you run the risk of drowning. I’m happy to report that ‘dying’ is rarely frustrating, even though you get washed back to the start of the level. This is the magic of well-designed proc gen at work.
In contrast to countless other runners and puzzles that assess your performance with three-star rating systems, Run-A-Whale makes it necessary to acquire all three to move forward. There are exciting, quirky achievements like spooking seagulls, and riding through a Greek island village. They’re fun, but subsequent achievements do become harder, which may leave you desperately wanting to pass the level without getting 100% completion. To be clear, the challenge level is fair and the sheer variety of mines, ships, boxes and underwater barriers blocking your path provide genuine entertainment, and in my case, blood-pressure raising mayhem. Luckily, there are swathes of golden coins painting the skies and waves, and collecting these acts as a more gentle side objective; collect enough and you can modify your pirate’s hat, or give your whale a cosmetic makeover. I don’t know what PETA would have to say on the latter.
Unlike those deceptive restaurant menus where food always looks more delicious in theory, Run-A-Whale’s graphics are truly as advertised. Its luxurious low-poly paintings sparkle with erupting volcanoes, undulating waves, bright, eye-catching collectibles that incentivise travelling through more difficult pathways, and shift between day and night in a seamless time-lapse. The highlight is a cannon that sends you soaring skyward and temporarily grants the whale the gift of flight.
For just a dollar on the App Store, Run-A-Whale is a splash of a good time. The bold, vivid graphics, playful soundtrack and crazy protagonist will pique your interest, but the twist on typical runner formula and highly varied levels are its best assets without a doubt. An Android version is also in the works.
This game is good, with a few negatives.
For just a dollar on the App Store, Run-A-Whale is a splash of a good time. The bold, vivid graphics, playful soundtrack and crazy protagonist will pique your interest, but the twist on typical runner formula and highly varied levels are its best assets without a doubt.