Whalien: Unexpected Guests is the debut title from independent development studio Forbidden Folds. The game is a cartoony, third-person puzzle platformer that can be completed in just a few hours. Despite its brevity, Whalien is a fun adventure game that features charming characters, intelligently designed environments, and enjoyable physics-based puzzles.
A Display of Force
In Whalien, players take control of Ernest Hemingwhale, the last person living inside an AI-controlled mechanical whale ship named Fin. When Fin’s internal machinery becomes infested with slimy critters called Squiddies, it is up to Ernest to clean up Fin’s insides and fix the issues that have arose as a result.
The gameplay consists of simple physics-based mechanics that involve pushing and pulling objects in your surroundings to solve puzzles and work your way through Fin’s insides, which are composed of colorful rooms that each take on their own theme. Ernest will have to platform across inflatables in a tropical bathhouse or leap over tables in a restaurant, for example.
On his trek to cure Fin’s ailments, Ernest acquires special gloves that allow him to forcibly move nearby objects and blast away the gooey pink Squiddies taking over the ship. For objects at a distance, Ernest must alternate between a pair of pearls named Mr. Push and Mrs. Pull. Solving puzzles often requires glancing around a room to get an idea for what Ernest needs to do. Each location is logically laid out and it never felt like it took overly long to work through a level. Although there were moments where platforming felt floaty, I was able to stick the landing in most cases, so it wasn’t a huge issue overall.
As you make your way through Fin’s internal machinery, clues will begin to appear that reveal details about Ernest and the ship’s past. Although Ernest is the only human left residing inside Fin, there are an assortment of Springpeople around to keep him company. Springpeople are metal crew members attached to sliding tracks throughout the ship who will usually appear when it’s time for Ernest to acquire new tools. Certain Springpeople will also offer side challenges for Ernest to complete, like catching a golden fish or finding a Springperson’s lost head. Completing these tasks will reward you with stickers for your sticker book collection.
Pulling Your Weight
The most notable aspect of Whalien is its short runtime. Clocking in at around three hours, Whalien is a brief adventure that can easily be completed in one sitting. As someone who enjoys and is used to solving environmental puzzles like the ones in Whalien, I felt that the game would have benefited from a slightly longer runtime. However, if you are the type of gamer who enjoys puzzle games but doesn’t necessarily have the stamina to play longer ones, Whalien is right up your alley.
The controls are intuitive and easy to pick up, making the game accessible for players of various skill levels. The puzzles, while challenging, never felt overly difficult or impossible to solve, which kept me engaged and motivated to keep playing. If you are looking for a short yet complete puzzle game to play, Whalien: Unexpected Guests offers a fun way to pass a few hours without major commitment.
Whalien: Unexpected Guests is available for Windows PC via Steam as of January 24, 2023.