(Editor’s Note: What follows is the original review written for the first version the author played, and our site score also reflects the state of the game at that time. Since then, one or more critiques have been addressed by the developer. For a list of these, see “Addendums” below the original verdict at the end of the article.)
Dioxis Mining’s recently released Whirl the Squirrel (out now, $0.99) at first glance looks like it might be a combination of side scrolling Sonic the Hedgehog gameplay meets an Endless Runner. It’s a pity that this isn’t what the title actually was, for otherwise the review to follow would probably be a markedly different beast than the unpleasant report I am here today to deliver. For those of you who just want a simple answer to things, and don’t want to have to read all of this to figure out what the deal is, I can sum everything up for you in four words: don’t buy this game.
Anyways – for everyone still reading – here is a more detailed look into what went wrong with Whirl the Squirrel, which won’t take too long because – like Battletoads – you’re probably never going to get past the third level.
Your goal in each stage of Whirl the Squirrel is to either beat an enemy racer to a destination, such that he doesn’t abscond with one of the rodent’s precious things, or have over a specific number of flowers on hand when you reach a level’s end. The stages themselves has no randomization whatsoever, which is a really good thing as you have to run through them at full tilt if you’re ever going to have any chance of beating your opponent to the punch. The downside of going through anything solely at max speed is that it ceases being a thing of reaction and instead becomes an experiment in rote memorization, especially since your foe will usually pull ahead of you whenever you make a single mistake.
The controls in Whirl the Squirrel – considering that the game intends for you to always be going as fast as possible – have thankfully been kept simple: there’s a left and right button on one side of the screen, and a single jump button on the other. For the most part the player will simply hold down whichever direction the track is currently facing, and do their best to press the jump button at all of the correct places to avoid traps and/or collect bonus flowers. Situations that require jumping include avoiding enemies that approach Whirl from behind, leaping over gaps that come up from the front, activating yellow bounce pedestals in order to send the squirrel flying to a higher track, and occasionally being pressed in mid air to perform a down stomp that breaks the ground below.
For the first two levels these inputs work all fine and dandy and you will feel that you have enough control to actually handle what Whirl the Squirrel is throwing at you, or at least you will after first rote memorizing where everything is. However – even as you’re eventually triumphing over these first few stages – you’re going to have a hanging feeling that this isn’t really fun at all, unless you’re the sort that actually enjoyed memorizing subjects for high school tests. Fear not, for any doubts you have as to whether or not this game is actually fun – or if it will possibly ever get better – will be completely put to rest when Whirl the Squirrel completely forbids all forward progress with stage three.
Stage three decides to change things up a bit by not having you try to beat some enemy to a randomly name bauble, but instead challenges you to have over a specific number of flowers in tow by the time you reach the stage’s end. This shouldn’t be terribly difficult as there’s quite a few flowers littered about this particular stage, the real problem here is that each time you touch any of the enemies – or any of the red blobs present – you lose a lot of flowers. This probably doesn’t sound so bad at first, but the crux is that all of the flowers on this stage have been placed within freefalling segments where you must narrowly weave back and forth between two walls of red blobs.
In order to finish the third stage one would essentially have to perfectly thread the needle in an epic fashion, and it is at this point one realizes that the left/right buttons aren’t nearly up to the task at hand. After about an hour of failing to finish this stage – or far less, assuming it’s not your job to write an objective review – you’re going to realize no amount of rote memorization is go to make up for the control imprecision present, and then you will probably never play Whirl the Squirrel again. Especially since you can’t move on to the next level until after you first finish the current one, and – furthermore – there are no IAPs being offered either that might have let you skip past this abomination of a stage.
Thusly you will have finished the game’s actually playable portion in less than ten minutes, the rest of Whirl the Squirrel merely being an ephemeral dream only accessible by a veritable gaming deity.
iFanzine Verdict: Unless a massive revamp of the controls gets dolled out – or at the very least an overhaul of the third level – there is absolutely no reason in the slightest for you to try and play Whirl the Squirrel, and even then the game will probably still just be an endless series of rote memorization challenges played out at warp speed.
Addendum: A recent update to Whirl the Squirrel has ironed out the issues we initially had with level 1-3.