I didn't grow up with arcades, at least not the type that folks older than me probably did. I never rolled into a grimy arcade with a sack full of quarters. Instead, I arrived local miniature golf-laser tag-shitty arcade hybrids with a $5 bill and a dream to play Dance Dance Revolution for at least an hour straight. My retro arcade game education came much later in life with emulators, re-releases, and more helping me find my way. One of the games that captured my heart ages ago was Umihara Kawase, an underrated platformer about a girl with a fishing hook.
Whip! Whip!, a new game that I stumbled upon on Nintendo Switch (and is now available on Steam too)—thanks to a shout out from the blog Tiny Cartridge—is a throwback to the Taito arcade games I didn't have the chance to grow up with like most people I know. Its square-shaped levels elicit strong Bubble Bobble vibes, only it has a twist: your weapon is a grappling oven mitt, similar to Umihara Kawase's fishing hook. The hook pulls you into enemies with a flying kick, which you can spin around to hit others around too. You're rewarded with cute little pastries and fruit for your efforts, which net your little chef hero points.
Whip! Whip! is relatively slim on content. I was able to power through its single-player story mode in a little over an hour (co-op is also available, with another player being able to hop in whenever too) with hardly any trouble, minus a few bosses along the way. The bosses themselves are clever, even if most of them easily roll over with just a few hits. There are time and score attack modes too, but they're just of the story mode's levels.
I've enjoyed my time with Whip! Whip! though, even if it was really only for a fleeting afternoon. On the Switch particularly, it feels great to play (though I do wish it supported the D-Pad beyond just the menus, arcade-inclined games always feel weird with an analog stick). Its 8-bit art style is cute, from its enemy designs of bouncing octopuses to the scene-setting backgrounds of stages. Like the 8-bit games of decades past, it accomplishes a lot with very little assets at its disposal; it's an exercise of restraint.
The music especially helps set the Taito heyday-era vibe. It makes sense too, given that it's scored by Hirokazu Koshio (a.k.a. COSIO) from Taito's own house band Zuntata, a group known best for—you guessed it—Bubble Bobble. The developers themselves, Alpha-Unit, have been kicking around the industry for awhile, though most of its games haven't made it stateside. Foto Showdown, a gimmicky Nintendo DSi game that utilized the portable console's camera, is likely its most familiar title to westerners.
Whip! Whip! has nothing in common with that though. It's a game that knows its inspirations and acts on them with stunning simplicity. It's not trying to be anything else, nor elevate the genre in some noble way. There are no gimmicks in sight. Whip! Whip! is just a good feeling arcade throwback, and doesn't need all the bells and whistles most modern games in the genre tend to strive towards.
I see age as a hindrance in my line of work; I'm lacking in the experience and knowledge of a lot of my colleagues in pretty much anything before 2001, leaving me with some huge blind spots. But it's games like Whip! Whip! that help satisfy that ongoing curiosity of gaming's history, and lead me to explore older games I'm largely unfamiliar with. And on a hot afternoon, Whip! Whip! is nice little cooldown from the modern world of creative indies and dour triple-A adventures, whether you grew up roaming through air conditioned arcades with pockets full of quarters or not.
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