Whirleo offers a unique “spin” on environmentally conscious gaming
If you were to hear that a new videogame was going to have a dominant theme about preserving the environment, chances are likely you’d run the other way. While education and gaming aren’t mutually exclusive, the combination isn’t always fantastic. Luckily, Smith & Tinker’s Whirleo (a 1% For The Planet member) promotes a clean Earth without sacrificing any of the fun.
Whirleo is an accelerometer centric game that focuses on clearing stages of various real-life pollutants (such as smog, water pollution, and radioactive waste). Controlling one of several colorful top characters, your goal is to spin your way through multiple 3D environments. On paper it sounds like an absolute snore, but it’s actually a very entertaining process.
Each top is controlled Super Monkey Ball style by calibrating your iOS device and tilting it in order to move. A quick flip of the device causes your top to hop up into the air. By constantly swiping the screen, you keep your top spinning as fast as possible. Despite how finicky the accelerometer can be for some games, we found the top controls to be simple and effective.
While your main objective is to spin your way to each area’s golden leaf, there’s plenty to do in the meantime. Vacuuming up the environmental hazards of each level is usually optional, but it’s entertaining and offers in-game currency (“Greeno”) that can be spent on characters and abilities. Each stage offers 3 hidden silver leafs to collect as well, along with a dozen secret character tops.
Every few stages a new enemy is introduced that corresponds to a new form of real-world pollution. Players are given an opportunity to learn about each issue in the form of a fact sheet. Whirleo is a great example of an environmentally conscious game done right. It never forces issues on the player, but gives them plenty of opportunity to learn if they desire.
While Whirleo doesn’t supply the intricate tracks and challenge of Super Monkey Ball, it makes up for them with its supply of unique powerups. Whether it be swinging a large hammer to destroy anything in your path, zipping through the water like a submarine, or taking flight with a propeller hat, there’s plenty of variety to go around.
Whirleo makes great use of the iOS’s graphical capabilities, offering huge, attractive stages to explore. Some areas were so expansive that they had us wondering whether or not a full-fledged 3D platformer would be possible on iOS in the future. In the meantime, Whirleo offers some of the physically largest puzzles to be found on the App store.
The only thing keeping Whirleo from a must-own is its brevity. The first seven levels are free to play, and paying for an unlock opens up stages 8 through 30. While some stages offer over 10 minutes of gameplay alone, the length of the total adventure isn’t much longer than 2 hours tops.
It doesn’t help any that most stages are a breeze to complete. Falling off a stage does not end in failure, but rather leaves you respawning right where you fell. Only a very small handful of stages require you to succeed in a specific amount of time, and we only found ourselves losing to this condition one time in our full adventure. It sounds funny to complain about a game for being too easy, but at just 30 stages, a little more difficulty could have gone a long way.
If you’re looking for an active platforming experience with intuitive controls, Whirleo delivers. It’s a relatively short and unchallenging experience, but the with no price barrier to entry, it’s well worth a spin. Who knew a game about keeping the environment clean could be so fun?