People can usually spot a potentially offensive game from a mile away. Manhunt, The Suffering, BMX XXX, The Guy Game. Gratuitous violence and nudity. These themes run rampant through any selection of offensive games. Whiplash doesn't quite qualify on those terms, but there is a section of this planet that I'm sure would find Whiplash at least borderline offensive. So it's a little surprising that it slipped under the pile like it did last year. Yes, some people might find something offensive here, but I think most people will find that Whiplash is just your basic platformer.
Whiplash centers on the antics of two lab animals; Spanx, an electro-shocked weasel and Redmond, a wiseass rabbit that was used for cosmetic testing. Their days of usefulness for the Genron Corporation are over and Spanx and Redmond have been brought to the Genetic Recombinator to combine them into a "weasit" or a "rabbel". A gruesome fate to be sure. But at the last moment they break free and the duo, with the help of a mysterious eye in the sky, set out to destroy Genron and escape.
This escape takes the form of your rather basic platformer except instead of switching back and forth between Spanx and Redmond, you control them both together as they're still chained together. Spanx is the larger character so he moves and Redmond, after the years of cosmetic testing has hardened his skin, is used as a wrecking ball to fight through the scientists, phone jockeys and security drones that want to see our dynamic duo behind bars again. Furthering the fun, with his tough skin, Redmond can be dumped in fire, ice, toxic waste and the toilet to gain an edge over his pursuers. He can be shoved in the gears of an electronically locked door to open it and jammed into ceiling lights to swing Spanx to higher ground. It's a little sick, but it works on a gameplay level. It also makes you wonder why is Redmond indestructible when it comes to toxic waste but he loses health when touched by a security guard?
Aside from it's unique setup, Whiplash is generic through and through. There's nothing overly bad about the game but there's nothing overly good either. It just is. Each level looks the same as every level that came before it. I mean there's only so many ways you can make a lab look different from every other lab. You are also constantly attacked by the same executives and security guards and for variety's sake, the same three scientists. This attempt at combat is more than a little drab too. Bad guy enters your field of vision. Continually press Square to swing Redmond at them like a mace, bad guy falls down, collect bonus item, move on. That's the entire fighting system in one sentence.
Redmond tries to keep the audio fresh by giving a running commentary throughout the whole game. He gets off a few good lines, like in the game's introductory level where he remarks that "We've all jumped over boxes before". The Genron PA system is also buzzing throughout the whole game spouting some random killing animals in the name of science is good for humanity. Some are clever, some are dumb, which is more than I can say for the background music because it is so far in the background that I barely noticed it.
Even in this sea of average, Whiplash has a few things that are worth mentioning. I really liked some of the secondary objectives given to Spanx and Redmond, especially the Net Worth counter. The idea is that by smashing everything inside Genron, they'll go backrupt and never perform animal experiments again. A lot of the furniture and items can be destroyed and each one has a dollar value. Smashing them reduces Genron's Net Worth and if you can cause $6 million in damage they'll go bankrupt. It's actually a very interesting way of keeping score. But as an investor I'd be weary of any multinational conglomerate with a robotics division and a net worth of only $6 million (that doesn't leave any money for anything else!).
Freeing animals and watching them turn on their captors is also good for a laugh. Seeing scientists run for the exits screaming as they're being chased by a troop of monkeys is not something you see in a video game very often. But tn both of these cases, mindless destruction is about the only way to keep the game interesting.
Finally, I have to praise Crystal Dynamics for a perfect dig at Enron and all that mess. Naming the company Genron and then even co-opting their logo into the Genron logo, that's just great. I know they couldn't resist the urge of making the final boss F.D. Mann (F The Man?), but still, a Ken Lay joke could have been worked in there somewhere.