Whiplash is an action-platforming romp that gleefully uses a meek little rabbit on a chain to destroy a major corporation. Twisted? Perhaps, but the game's unique layout befits its nontraditional story. The entire adventure unfolds like one continuous escape scene, with minibosses and checkpoints along the way. Luckily, it never feels too monotonous, because something as simple as getting to and using an elevator might spawn a two-hour quest. But since the only consistent form of interaction in Whiplash puts every person and object at the trailing end of a bunny chain-whip, the mass destruction does get old. But the spirit of the sadistic, bitter minds that spawned this idea thrives throughout the game--finding new ways to test the limits of the durable Redmond rabbit was what kept me going. Unfortunately, I spent most of my time trying to distinguish doorways and corridors from one another. Most look so similar that it's hard to tell if you're backtracking or progressing without constantly checking a map. Still, any platform fan with a quirky sense of humor owes this one a rental.
At the very least, Whiplash deserves praise for trying something different. But while I love Whiplash's over-the-top concept and humor, its game-play and graphics languish in a sea of averageness. You wander from room to all-too-similar room, struggling with a map system that's too convoluted to be useful and unclear goals that lead to too much trial and error. When there are so many great platformers to play, Whiplash's faults overshadow its triumphs, making it easy to throw in the "if I ever have time" pile.
I'll admit it. I am smitten. Spanx and Redmond are the cutest little bobbins I've seen in a U.S.-developed platformer since... well, since ever. Their game's a ton of fun, too, with solid controls, diverse level designs, and perfect difficulty. The sense of hugeness in some sections is very impressive, and the secondary quest (busting up the complex until its net worth is SO) is almost more engaging than the primary one. The only major flaw is the game's occasionally uneven graphics--the enemies look like they're from a PS1 game.
Whiplash burns rubber on the PC with a new take on racing games. As you crunch fenders around 16 tracks, you work as part of a team to squash the other squads and cross the finish line first. But winning also demands stunt-driving skills-the tracks are packed with hairy obstacles like corkscrews, cross-traffic jumps, rising drawbridges, and towering loops.
A built-in communications feature lets you talk trash and plan tactics in the heat of the race. Up to 16 players can join these fender benders over a network or modem, and Interplay promises to deliver a tough A.I. that'll pull its weight as well.
Just look at the cover of this game and it will make you want to play it: ten cars cruising through a double upside-down loop, one of the cars smashing into the wall and bursting into flames, two more careening off into space ... will this be the killer car game -- a great race game with arcade action and maybe a few lethal devices attached to the front bumpers?
Well, no, it won't, but the folks at Gremlin Interactive are getting closer than most have.
As we've all seen, the last year has brought forth a half-dozen new race games, from the hard sims like NASCAR and Indycar, to the soft sims such as Screamer and The Need for Speed, to the mayhem-filled Zone Raiders and Destruction Derby...but not one of them pulled everything together, and it looked like Whiplash just might, so I was a bit disappointed when, like Destruction Derby, Whiplash fell short of what it might have achieved with a little more attention to the PC platform's capabilities and limitations.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
This is Hot Wheels in real-time: 8 fast little cars and some wild, wild tracks, including the aforementioned double-loop, a draw bridge, a corkscrew spiral, jumps that leave you with a good 3-4 seconds of hang time, and several innovative cross over/under tracks that allow for more than one route on a given lap.
Each of the eight cars has a series of attributes -- acceleration, cornering, braking, top speed, etc. that are well-balanced so that every car presents a challenge and a unique strength.
Likewise, each of the eight tracks has at least one devilish twist, turn, or obstacle that makes for some great smash-ups and fast decision making.
The box says that you get 16 cars and 16 tracks, but the 2nd set of cars and tracks can only be accessed once you have won the tournament on the first 8 tracks. Now, I'm the first to say that a good game player should get a reward for achieving whatever the hardest task is in a given game, but here's a point where Whiplash really falls down: on the easiest setting, the computer opponents can easily crush you on at least half the tracks, thus thwarting your ability to get to the second set of tracks.
As for the tracks, these are clearly the highlight of the game, as much work has been put into making asphalt twist and dive like a roller coaster. The programmers at Gremlin have also managed to construct a fairly realistic physics model for the tracks and cars, which leads to some frustrating results as well as some brilliant ones -- there is a corkscrew track which is very nearly impossible to drive through without ending up on your back, but there is also the drawbridge track that lets you pick from one of two lanes just as you approach the jump -- a touch that allows you to subtly alter your car's path at the last moment and send an opponent careening off into space with a mere nudge.
As your car takes more and more damage, first smoke, and then flames start to leap from under your hood, partially obscuring the road if you're in really bad shape. Take too much damage and your car explodes. Lose 3 cars and you lose the race. However, you have the opportunity to make a pit stop each time you cross the start/finish line, but trying this against the computer players will simply net you a 15th or 16th place finish most every time...however, against other human opponents, I suspect this would be a very strong feature of the game...unfortunately, the modem-play feature of this game was a complete disaster to get working. We tried unsuccessfully for several hours to run Whiplash head-to-head. The farthest we got was two machines connected, but never able to synch gameplay.
486-DX 66 or greater (Pentium recommended), 8 MB RAM minimum, 20 MB hard drive space, 2X CD-ROM drive, SoundBlaster or 100% compatible sound card, VGA graphics card (SVGA supported for VESA compatible cards), MS DOS 5.0 or greater, supports mouse and/or joystick
If you want a wild, fast-action arcade racer, Whiplash might just fit the bill -- to see for yourself, go check out the demo and give it a try.
Overall, I rate this an 82 out of 100. For Whiplash to achieve higher, it would have to overcome some of the glitches and difficulties that it contains in its current incarnation, the biggest of which is the load it places on your video card. If you run Whiplash in letterboxed mode (a "cheat" enabled by typing in "cinema" in place of your name on the drivers screen), you might get reasonable performance with a Pentium processor and a lightning fast video card, but let me tell you: I tried this game last night on a Pentium 75 with 40 megs of RAM and a 64-bit video card with 2 MBs of DRAM, and it was almost as fast as I would have liked. Ouch. Guess it's time for a Pentium Pro and a 128-bit video card.