Whipseey and The Lost Atlas

A game by Daniel A. Ramirez for PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and iOS, originally released in 2019.
Whipseey and The Lost Atlas is a cute and colorful platformer starring Alex, a boy who is pulled into another world by way of a mysterious book. Once in this world, Alex finds his body transformed, shrinking him down into a cutesy pink creampuffy creature named Whipseey. Fortunately, the distressed Whipseey immediately meets a princess who hands him a pink whip and sends him out to complete his quest… which apparently has something to do with a lost atlas, but that’s not actually clear in the wordless and minimal story.

Whipseey and The Lost Atlas hangs its hat on the nostalgia invited by its bright and colorful world, adorable character designs, and whimsical soundtrack, as the player travels across five themed lands. Whipseey has a high variable jump and is able to use his whip to attack enemies (of course), and holding the JUMP button while falling allows him to spin the whip over his head like a helicopter, slowing his descent. In a few areas, there are floating rings which may be grappled, allowing him to swing through the air and cross gaps.

Whipseey can use his whip while standing or jumping, and he can even swim underwater, where he is free to whip as well, and each press of the JUMP button propels him upward a bit. The whip has a bit of overhead range when the swing begins, allowing him to strike enemies slightly above him. Finally, Whipseey can bop on most enemies’ heads (not the spiked ones) which stuns them for a moment, after which he may follow up with a whip attack to kill them.

The player can bop on enemies to get a bit of extra height, and in a couple of areas, the player is required to bop enemies to cross over bottomless pits. Bopping an enemy near a ledge often causes it to fall over the side to its death, but doing this means that the player misses out on the opportunity to collect gems.

Most killed enemies drop a few gems, with small red gems worth one unit, and large blue ones worth five. The blue ones also restore one unit of health to Whipseey’s 5-unit meter, and the player occasionally encounters potions that restore his health to full. Collecting 100 gems grants the player an extra life, which is important because the player begins the game with five lives (but infinite continues).

Checkpoints appear frequently, showing up at each screen transition, resulting in very little repeated ground if the player is killed. However, if the player loses all five lives within a world, he must start that world over from the beginning, which results in a lot of repeated play… especially if the player dies while fighting a boss. Oh, and lives are not restored upon completing a world, so kindly kill yourself.

Many modern games overcome this sort of repetition by providing the player with infinite lives, but if that were the case here, most players would blow through the game in 20-30 minutes. Like the console classics that inspired it, this game’s length is extended by the player making multiple attempts to complete each world, although platforming veterans can still expect to beat the game in a single sitting.

Level designs are very straightforward, consisting of mostly 90 degree angles, with the occasional sloped surface which causes Whispeey to slide a bit. Sloped surfaces are sometimes used as a level hazard when they are placed near ledges or enemies. Gameplay is similarly straightforward, with the player learning the basic mechanics in the opening level and only rarely being asked to use them in new ways later in the game, resulting in a fairly flat difficulty curve that remains moderate throughout.

Much of the difficulty derives from the fact that there are a lot of insta-death obstacles in the game, ranging from bottomless pits to spikes to lava, per platforming conventions, so missing a landing or getting knocked back by an enemy is an easy way to meet a quick death. Even in the first level, the player must navigate underwater chambers while dealing with enemies – including ones that fire spikes in eight directions – along with spiked walls, floors, and ceilings. Here, a single misstep results in death, as getting knocked back into spikes kills the player, despite a short invincibility period.

The most interesting level is the fourth, which takes place in a winterland made up of snowy slopes and toy blocks. Here the player encounters larger enemies (bearing a resemblance to Waddle Dee from the Kirby series, which also stars a pink creampuff in the leading role) that take three hits to kill, as opposed the 1-hit kills for other foes. Or the player can hop onto their heads and ride around on them, moving off center to the left or right to steer them in a chosen direction. However, despite this fairly interesting gameplay concept, there aren’t any challenges built around it, other than using one of them to make it easier to reach a grapple point.

The fourth level also features a sequence where the player runs back and forth along the top of a train while it travels through the level. Here, the player must avoid obstacles that can potentially pin him against the left side of the screen and kill him instantly. This area is populated by planes that fly along, which you can whip or stand on like platforms (again, there aren’t any challenges centered around this mechanic), and the higher-flying planes will drop bombs when they get close. Interspersed are regular enemies, a few platforms, and missile-firing foes that require you to whip their missiles out of the air to avoid taking damage.

Boss battles are more interesting affairs, with each offering a couple of attack types to start, and then adding a third attack type midway through the battle. The first two bosses require that you steer clear of attacks for a bit before getting in close to deliver multiple strike in succession, and both of these bosses can summon smaller versions of themselves as support enemies. The third boss takes place against a pugilistic cactus in a desert arena with quicksand along the left side. His punching patterns are easy to learn, but he occasionally sends a wall of rocks along the ground which can kill you instantly if you get pinned by them. Bosses are charming, colorful, and well-animated, fitting well with the aesthetics of the world, and they would be right at home in many classic 16-bit platformers.

Level designs are lovely and offer hints that there might be side paths or tucked-away alcoves to explore… but that is not the case. Navigation is fairly simple, but there are some challenges where enemy placement gives the player very little room to land on a platform. There’s also a pretty big issue with the player’s hitbox, although this is only a problem in areas with low overhangs (which are rare). Whipseey’s sprite is wide at the bottom and narrow at the top, but his hitbox appears to be square, resulting in situations where you’ll jump and bump your head despite there being a sizeable gap between the sprite and the object in question. Unfortunately, there are a couple of areas where bumping your head and falling down results in an instant death.

Whipseey and The Lost Atlas is a by-the-book platformer, offering a largely uncomplicated left-to-right experience with no new abilities and few new challenges from the beginning of the game to its end. For some reason, the game offers a world map and the ability to replay any previous stage, but there is absolutely nothing to be found by doing so. Once your time with the game is up, there is nothing new to experience by returning to it.

Whipseey was developed by Daniel A. Ramirez. The game’s artwork was created by Roy Nathan De Groot, who previously worked on several Vlambeer titles, including Super Crate Box, Serious Sam: The Random Encounter, and Luftrausers. Music and sound effects were created by Benji Inniger, who previously composed music for Tactics V: "Obsidian Brigade" and Salmon Ninja.

The game was published by Blowfish Studios, which previously published War Tech Fighters, Morphite, and Gunscape, among other games.