Whalien: Unexpected Guests is a physics-based 3D puzzle platformer by Forbidden Folds set in the abandoned innards of a massive whale-shaped flying machine.

You take control of Ernest Hemingwhale, a descendant of the machine’s original creator and de facto engineer. All other passengers have fled due to an infestation of creatures called Squiddies. With multiple vital functions disrupted, the distressed ship’s AI, Fin, calls on you to do something about it.

There’s quite a bit of background lore for the ship’s now defunct society, as well as the new one that has sprung up in its place. Literal spring people now live freely inside the ship who once served as automated helpers to the human passengers. They now help you, offering up information about how things are and how they used to be when humans were around. The couple of recurring characters you meet, namely two spring scientists, are generally entertaining to speak to. When they aren’t giving you basic direction on your next task, they are absentmindedly insulting your intelligence or capability.

Speaking of which, Ernest has a few tools to aid his maintenance tasks: a push glove that can move objects directly in front of you and a pull glove that lets you hold or carry objects. Switching to “push” while holding something will launch it, and despite the scientists’ lack of faith, they grant you two more skills, throwable push and pull pearls. These items are essentially gravitational spheres, and once activated, they’ll remain stationary in space, affecting most objects in their reach.

The environmental puzzles are fairly straightforward, and once it becomes clear what direction you should be heading in, the combination of platforming and environment manipulation tends to feel a bit rudimentary. Even the last skill you unlock, which lets you swap the pearls’ locations with each other, is never used in an elegant way; you’d instead place one pearl in position and then mash the switch button to trigger the needed effect.

However, the final level does present some clever puzzles that encourage smart and skillful use of your abilities, at least to a further extent than all that came before, but it was marred by broken mechanics that left me unimaginably frustrated. The multi-staged puzzle included a portion that telegraphs its solution but would not trigger when I attempted to do what was required. I rage-quit after an hour of finding no other alternative, but after reloading my save the next day, I found the stage had progressed as if what I attempted had worked — but I wasn’t shown how. It was as if a cutscene or sequence never triggered. A later section of the same level also would not function, forcing me to build makeshift platforms using the game’s physics abilities to jank my way to where I needed to be. While I was able to complete the game this way, it definitely left a bad taste in my mouth.

I do like the game’s colorful toy-like aesthetic. Its over-the-top amusement park-styled levels are jam-packed with props and interactable doodads that make adorable chirps, beeps, and other child attracting noises. But despite 16 distinct areas, my playthrough wrapped up in about four hours, and that’s including my lengthy workaround at the end.

Whalien: Unexpected Guests is a mostly inoffensive puzzle platformer with eye-catching visuals. Minus its broken final stage I had an enjoyable time, but due to its simplicity, even without that hiccup, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend it to any but the youngest of 3D platformer fans. The game is out January 24 on PC.

Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Whalien: Unexpected Guests.

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