Whipseey and the Lost Atlas is a retro platformer that draws influences from a variety of classic 8-bit platformers. The plot is told in two brief dialog-free cutscenes. I play as a pink-haired boy—Whipseey, presumably—who is one day sucked into a book which transforms him into a stubby-limbed blob.
Waking up in a fantasy world, Whipseey meets the local princess who gives him a whip and sends him out on a quest. The quest is probably for the titular Lost Atlas but no book actually appears after Whipseey’s transformation. I guide Whipseey across six levels to the top of a tower where a wizard lurks. Only after beating this wizard can Whipseey find his way home.
The plot is a secondary concern as Whipseey and the Lost Atlas is much more concerned with its platforming design. I found these experiences recognizable. Perhaps a little too recognizable.
It’s difficult for me to look at any image from Whipseey and the Lost Atlas and not see Kirby’s Adventure. Its pink, roly-poly player character bounding across colorful landscapes indelibly recalls HAL Laboratory’s most famous original creation.
Despite the aesthetic similarity, Whipseey is wholly unlike Kirby. He cannot fly, only jump. Instead of swallowing enemies, he uses a whip to defend himself. He can also use the whip to swing from rings across long gaps and spin it over his head to float. In other words, though Whipseey may look like Kirby, he plays like Simon Belmont from Super Castlevania IV.
The environments feel like a checklist of classic platformer levels. Broadly speaking, each level is evocative of Kirby’s earliest adventures. Whipseey runs and jumps across sunny beaches, green forests, and dark caves. Small black doorways represent transitions between each short platforming section. Some sections have me climbing up or down to the next door instead of continuing to the right. Others are single-screen challenges with a single platforming obstacle to overcome. If I played with the sound off I’m certain I would hear Green Greens playing in my head.
Some sequences contain brief set pieces that recall Kirby’s contemporaries. Whipseey swims through underwater tunnels in the beach level, slipping between narrow gaps of electric ivy stretching out from the walls, floors, and ceiling. In a level built out of toy blocks, Whipseey rides a toy train through an obstacle course while dodging diving toy planes. The gothic castle is filled with spinning gears that may throw Whipseey into deadly pits when he runs across them. Clearing these platforming obstacles is like being submerged in déjà vu.
Enemies, too, feel like they are lifted out of 8-bit platformers. Like most of Kirby’s enemies, Whipseey’s are small and rotund—perhaps other unfortunate children ensnared by the magic book, sucked into this world and transformed against their will? Specific enemies exhibit abilities I’ve seen elsewhere. A blob is invulnerable when it hides beneath its hardhat until it pops up to attack. Another blob with a spiked shell damages Whipseey if he jumps on its back. An enemy in the desert at first appears to be a disembodied head until it leaps, revealing a long snake-like tail trailing behind it.
The bosses, at least, feel mostly original. Indie platformers in recent years have mastered boss design, and Whipseey’s bosses fit right into the zeitgeist. They are deadly, even insurmountable, if attacked recklessly. Patiently dodging their telegraphed attacks and only hitting them once or twice when a window presents itself proves them to be manageable.
I try to avoid belabored comparisons to other videogames in my reviews, but Whipseey and the Lost Atlas demands them. The entire experience feels like a greatest hits album of platforming fame and infamy as performed by a competent but unremarkable cover band. I am not certain this permeating derivative feeling is the actual problem.
Whipseey is not long or challenging. I cleared its campaign in forty minutes with a single game over. There are no apparent hidden collectables to discover, no alternate difficulties to experience, and no new game modes to unlock. It lacks depth, and what I find as I wade through its shallows are levels and set pieces based on some of my favorite platformers from the late 1980s and early 1990s. These derivative experiences prove to be the most memorable aspects of a short, easy platformer, and only memorable because I’d already enjoyed them somewhere else.
I don’t dislike Whipseey and the Lost Atlas. Neither can I say I enjoy it. I will say I am glad to play it, but it’s difficult to recommend for anything other than a deep discount sale.