Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be inside of a giant whale? Or what it’s like to manage your inventory properly if you only have one spot? Or have you ever thought about the possibility that a van is currently chasing you… from ABOVE?!
Well, if you didn’t really know what I want from you with any of these questions, then you’ve come to the right place! After all, we’re looking at the newly released arcade-ish rogue-lite-title “Gutwhale”!
Developer: Stuffed Wombat, Franrekkk (Art), Britt Brady (OST) Publisher: Stuffed Wombat Genre: 2D, Action, Indie, Roguelike Release Date: April 6, 2020 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC I got a review-key for this game by the dev.
At the beginning of March, Josh from Stuffed Wombat was fired from his job due to the Corona-Virus-outbreak, so he started developing this game. In the game, you essentially engage in a gameplay-loop where you dive into the whale’s gut and have to shoot enemies with your gun and die when you run out of lives. Your gun only holds one bullet at the time, so when it hits a wall or enemy, it bounces off and you’ll have to pick it up again before you’re able to shoot again. The enemies either move, jump or shoot at you as well, resulting in a little bit of a bullet-hell-feel that I overall found rather enjoyable.
Patience is key
If you die and your bullet is still on the ground, you may use it in the next life as well, which leads to strategy-opportunities. Each area or biome is divided into different levels where you need to clear all the enemies. Using arrows, the enemies of the next level below you are indicated to you so that you can position yourself in a good position.
Despite the in-your-face-techno kind of music that is blasting your ears in a rather fast manner that was created by Britt Brady (known for the Gato Roboto soundtrack), the game actually requires a lot of patience. I guess you can rush into the fights without any strategy at all but in my case, it never worked out and I got a bit frustrated. Not at the game but at myself for not doing what I wanted to do: Not Die.
You have to patiently wait for enemies to move a certain way and you have to position yourself accordingly, aim steadily and know when to move fast and when to wait for a second and reconsider your next move. Sure, the game may be a tiny bit fast-paced when you’re getting swarmed by four frogs at once or when it suddenly turned into a bullet hell game with all the mushrooms shooting at you… but it still punishes you for being overaggressive, which I found rather enjoyable.
The artstyle is…. gutsy?
Frankrekkk did a great job to portray the inside of a whale. It’s very red and it almost feels as moist as I’d imagine a gut to be… The enemies also come in a bit of variety with new enemies for each area and new patterns for their movement. There are small jellyfish that chase you around in the first level alongside mushrooms that are shooting bullets at you and small whales eating away at the blocks that stand before you. Down below, in the next bigger area, you’ll find a lot of skeleton foes that move based on your movement while there’s tankier enemies further below that hit hard and are able to take more than just one or two hits.
Overall, I didn’t get too far into the game yet. It’s mostly just this one frame away and I always get a bit too tilted when I play Gutwhale as I just am not really good at it. Regardless of that, I made it to the third area and nearly have beaten it… and I’ve unlocked new hats that unlock new modifiers for your gameplay like getting more points (that then can be spent on extra lives or extra bullets) but also only having one life or like replacing all enemies with frogs… or like having a high jump… and all of these hats and modifiers make the game not necessarily easier… they just change it up a bit keeping the difficulty and bringing something new to the table so that you can enjoy this finite rogue-like-experience for a ton of time.
Overall, I’d say that Gutwhale is a great game. The art style, music and gameplay are completely satisfactory but there are some issues that may get fixed in the future (the game just came out after all):
In the settings, the game gives you “options” but not really options. You’re able to play in “Fullscreen”, “Smollscreen” and “Bigscreen”, which is amusing at first but it gets rather annoying when you don’t have the option of turning on Borderless Windowed or change the resolution at all. Similar problem with the sound: Sure, the soundtrack is nice… but being able to either turn it on, off or have someone whistle, isn’t really helpful. The game is really blasting the music into your ears and generally, I find it rather annoying when I cannot turn down some of the volume settings or the brightness or anything like that.
I get it. These settings are supposed to be for entertainment only and stuff but “serious settings ON/OFF” would be a nice setting to have as well where you have these joke-settings on “on” and normal %-volume-settings for sound and music and brightness and everything else, too, on “off”. At first, I found them fun and even chuckled at them but over time it just got annoying, though I guess that you can either turn everything off or you use the computer’s audio mixer for it.
Apart from these issues with the settings, I didn’t encounter any other flaws or bugs or whatever and really enjoyed the game. Sure, it can be frustrating sometimes but I never felt like the game killed me. It always was my over-eagerness or my impatience or a false input.
Hence, I do recommend the game. For four bucks on Steam it’s a grab that is absolutely worth it, so check it out if you enjoyed this review.
This post is part of a challenge called BLAPRIL. The goal is to post as much as possible during the 30 days of April. There are different themes during some of the weeks and a lot of mentors, newbies and participants participating. Feel free to check this hub-post out and check out the other participants!