There is something to be said about the power of some good ol' fashioned couch multiplayer in this age of online gaming. There's a certain degree of delightful chaos in the experience of competing head to head with friends that are physically present that can't be replicated by voice chat or matchmaking. Nowhere is this more evident than in Breakfall's multiplayer space narwhal combat simulator, STARWHAL. A perfect fit for Nintendo consoles, STARWHAL functions as an excellent platform to showcase the fun times that can arise out of a simple game played with several friends.
The premise is as bizarre as it is inventive; you control a magical narwhal flying through space and your goal is to pierce the heart of other narwhals with your tusk. Naturally this takes place across a wide variety of fantastic cosmic arenas - such as a magma covered planet or a spacetopus - that provide an excellent backdrop to the frantic action. All of this combines to create an enjoyable experience that is quite distinct and original; STARWHAL is probably unlike anything else you've played.
As with many simple arcade games, the gameplay makes or breaks the experience, and Breakfall has nailed this aspect by finding the perfect balance between chaos and control. You never get the feeling of having full control over your starwhal, but there's just enough control that things rarely feel unfair; with five game modes that offer fresh riffs on the same basic concept, you'll likely get plenty of mileage out of it.
That being said, it must be noted that - much like when playing Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros. - this is an experience best enjoyed with a group of friends. The AI is fun enough to play against, but fails to replicate the experience of laughing alongside friends as your starwhals all pirouette around each other and vie for control. It's the little things that also contribute to the fun factor here, such as how you can deck out your starwhals in a diverse selection of hats and outfits prior to battle or how the camera zooms in and temporarily goes into slow motion when a starwhal's heart is about to get speared.
The graphics and audio may be a bit simple, but they're arguably not meant to be the primary focus of the game. Environments have a good bit of colour to them and the neon art style is pleasing to the eyes, but there's nothing here that'll have your jaw dropping in amazement. Similarly, the techno music that supports the experience does a good job of keeping matches upbeat and tense, but it won't stick in your mind.
All in all, Starwhal is an excellent couch multiplayer game that'll doubtless be a house favourite in many establishments. The frantic yet simple action keeps the game accessible to newcomers, but is chaotic enough that it will take a lengthy amount of time to get stale. There's a fairly meaty amount of content being offered as well, with five game modes, thirty stages, a few dozen challenge levels, and literally thousands of costume combinations awaiting players. For only twelve dollars - at launch - you'll be hard-pressed to find a more enjoyable game that can be played with multiple people. We'd highly recommend that you pick up Starwhal, call a few friends over, and engage in a highly competitive session of space narwhal combat.