Wispin is, quite simply, a little gem of a game. Although some aspects of its gameplay are similar to other pick-up-and-play arcade games of yore, it also manages to combine them in an entirely original way. It’s hard to argue with the App Store description of the game as a “totally unique fusion of color-matching gameplay and retro arcade action.”
The game manages to be both insistently offbeat and easily accessible, quirky and highly polished. Wispin, the game’s protagonist, looks a bit like a cross between the Brave Little Toaster and an anthropomorphized marshmallow. Wispin’s ability to change color, between red blue or green, is the key to dispatching the hordes of multi-colored Bloopers, the game’s cute, blob-shaped enemies. Basically, if your color matches an enemy’s when you walk into it, you damage them. If not, they damage you. Wispin is an endless survival game which plays sort of similarly to a dual-stick shooter, except instead of having a second joystick to aim your weapons, you have a tricolor wheel which you can slide or tap to change Wispin’s color. There are two game modes to choose from, Standard and Super Intense. In Standard, you face the Bloopers in waves and start with three lives, whereas Super Intense starts you with one life and pits you against a never-ending horde of constantly spawning Bloopers.
Wispin takes this basic, fast-paced gameplay, and adds just enough twists to it until we’re nearly taken to the point of superlative arcade bliss. The Bloopers themselves come in four different varieties, each of which behaves differently. While the smallest bad guys just squiggle at you aggressively, the medium sized ones are capable of tossing bombs and shooting arrows, and also of changing their color (sometimes to orange, yellow, or purple, rendering them nearly invulnerable until they change back). As with the enemies, if a bomb or an arrow is a different color from Wispin when it hits, it will damage him. If you match its color, it will harmlessly bounce off you, and you’ll get some extra points. Then there are the really nasty enemies, the Blaargs (who shoot a dangerous energy attack), and the Blommps (who are massive enemies who obscure your view of part of the arena, and bounce you away when you hit them, often into another enemy of a different color, damaging you.) There are also randomly appearing power-ups to help you get an edge, such as arrows and bombs of your own, extra lives, rainbow blasts which kill all enemies in their radius, and cheese. Yes, that’s right, cheese power-ups.
As brilliantly fun as all this is, the game’s combo scoring system is the real moment of genius, because it encourages the sort of fast-paced, aggressive gameplay that’s perfect for high-score lovers everywhere. Each time you dispatch an enemy you fill a combo bar which takes a few seconds to drain away. Keep it going quickly to rack up huge high scores. Although it’s not like Grumpyface Studios are the first ones ever in the history of gaming to implement this sort of score multiplier system, it fits Wispin perfectly, and will likely get you hooked quite quickly. While the combo multiplier encourages you to play it a little risky, the game is hectic enough to force you to balance your aggression with cautiousness.
Innovation Meets Fun: Wispin easily makes the short list for the most fun I’ve had on my iPod with anything remotely resembling a dual-stick shooter, and this is coming from someone who’s played enough games in that genre to get to feeling pretty stale with it. By fusing together this sort of 3/4 top-down arcade action gameplay with the ever-popular color matching phenomenon, Grumpyface Studios have created an almost-perfect slice of arcade action nirvana.
Addictive Gameplay: Your average round of Wispin will last only a few minutes (even less on the higher difficulties.) Despite this, you might have a hard time putting it down, since the game’s emphasis on a high score, high risk style of play keeps you constantly fiending to give it just one more go and rack up more points.
Crisp, Cartoony Visuals: Although it’s a little childish, the bright crisp graphic style is a good match, and a lot of fun. Animations are smooth and fluid, and all the various characters have a lot of charm and personality. Also, the game supports Retina Display graphics (although I can’t speak to how they look, *le sigh*). This is truly ‘fun for all ages’ done right.
Game Center Support: They’ve done a good job with the Game Center integration on this one. There are a plethora of leader-boards and a nice variety of achievements to go for. Also, the game has a nice stat tracker for those of you who want to track your highest combo or the number of Bloopers you’ve busted. Personally, I’m just glad it doesn’t tell me how many hours I’ve played.
Dying Like a Chump: If you hadn’t gotten this impression from my description so far, Wispin has some pretty darn hectic gameplay. And although the controls work very well, every now and then you will die what feels like an unjustified death. This comes in pretty much three different flavors: sometimes an enemy will spawn right where you were walking, sometimes there will be a small Blooper hidden behind one of the larger ones, or sometimes a medium-sized Blooper will change colors right when you were about to kill it. Honestly though, this is a very minor quibble, and really the only thing I could point to as close to a negative aspect.
If I haven’t made it emphatically clear yet, I really like this game a lot. Also, the developers promise free updates in the future, and are actively soliciting player feedback, which is always a positive in my book. If you enjoy fast-paced addictive gameplay, wacky cartoon visuals, or just plain having fun, I would recommend this game as a…
Wispin was developed by Grumpyface Studios, and I played through version 1.0 on my 2nd gen iPod Touch. At time of review, the price was $1.99.