It's hard to sell someone on a niche indie game when there are so many bigger, more popular options out there – but we're going to try anyway. Starwhal: Just the Tip certainly isn't for everyone, but its couch-based action makes it a real treat for those who crave multiplayer mayhem.
Sony's consoles, and the PlayStation 4 in particular, have become a safe haven for the local multiplayer genre as of late. From TowerFall: Ascension to In Space We Brawl, the roster just keeps on growing. Impressively, even with all of this competition, Starwhal remains an excellent choice for weekend gaming sessions with friends due to its fast-paced, crazy action.
The game has four multiplayer modes. Some involve capturing zones, others scoring points, but they all play out largely the same: you and up to three friends take control of starwhals (space-inhabiting narwhals), and use their tusks to duke it out. Each starwhal has a heart on the underside of its body, and so the objective is to stab your opponents' hearts enough times to eventually win the match. What makes it so fun, though, is just how hectic things can get. The game's physics are purposely awkward, and as such, the starwhals float and flop about, making every match just as heated as it is ridiculous.
It's a laugh, but never compromises challenging gameplay for a bit of humour, and for that reason, it does exceedingly well in social settings.
It makes for a wonderful experience with friends, but those going solo will no doubt feel short-changed, as the single player content is underwhelming. There are a slew of challenges – some in the form of an obstacle course, others being targets – but we aren't too sure how "fun" they are. Indeed, how much you enjoy the game will depend heavily on how many friends and controllers you have to spare.
Still, what's an indie game without its own visual style? Starwhal absolutely reeks of an 80s sci-fi vibe – in a good way. Notably, one of the game's maps is a planet with a giant octopus draping over it. We'd call it "trippy" if it didn't sound so juvenile.
The starwhals themselves are all bright and cartoonish, and with plenty of customisation options. There is a plethora of hats, wigs, and other accessories to equip to your avatar. This is a nice touch, but it admittedly feels a bit pointless, as there's no option to play online or even to save your starwhal, meaning that nobody but you and your friends will see it, and you'll have to manually customise it before each battle.
This only drives home what the game is really all about, though: sitting on a couch and yelling at pals. As an overall package, it comes up short. But once you see it for what it really is – a game that harkens back to the days of couch multiplayer – it's hard to beat.
Silly and colourful, Starwhal: Just the Tip makes a great first impression. At first you'll fall for the title's fun-loving attitude, but beyond that, it has some of the most entertaining competitive multiplayer that we've seen in a while. There isn't a whole lot to keep lone gamers occupied, but those looking for something to play with a group of mates will struggle to do better than this.