Review: Whirligig

Whirligig (aka Space Cutter aka fucking kill me this game is fucking awful) Review

I had a little look into Whirligig at https://www.atarilegend.com/games/games_detail.php?game_id=96 and noted that the game was designed and programmed by Mike Singleton – a name I recognised instantly. He was responsible for Midwinter 1 and 2, two of the greatest 16 bit games ever made, so you’d have to assume the game is good, right? The rest of the names listed appear to have mostly only worked on this one game – I must assume that it was not a success.

I had some trouble hunting down a manual for this one, the best I could find was http://www.lemonamiga.com/games/docs.php?id=1504 so that’s what I used to guide me through this game. The copy protection demanded a word from the manual (a common tactic in those days) and thankfully it matched up (I tried a random word thinking it was cracked – it was not) so it appears this is the actual manual.

Looking at the manual I see something in common with Midwinter – god-awful mouse controls. And when I fire the game up I see that this is actually the case. To speed up you move the mouse forward, and to slow down you move it backwards. Turning left and right comes courtesy of moving the mouse left or right, but while I am not 100% certain, it seems that the mouse is perhaps being moved around a box where each side represents maintaining movement in that direction. If one could see the box it might make the game easier to control, but as it is there is no feedback other than your ship’s movement in response to extraordinarily sensitive mouse controls.

Firing missiles is interesting. I kept wondering why when firing missiles they’d fly off in random directions – and some of those directions would involve circling back and hitting my own ship. Well, it turns out they’re heat seeking, and if they can’t find anything to kill (or if they just plain miss) they circle back and kill your ship. What kind of fucking madman would design that? What utter fucking cretinous buffoon would think that a sensible plan? It’s just one of an array of baffling design decisions. There is no map, so you just float through space not really knowing where to go, zoomed in too close to have the foggiest idea where aliens may be. Some kind of radar might be nice, maybe some arrow pointing to where you need to go, some fucking background markings other than a tiny scattering of points that are presumably stars.

Here’s a rare shot of my ship actually being near something. I had to kamikazi those ships to get the screenshot. I suffered for you. For you, and was it worth it? Those dots.. those are all you get most of the fucking time. Slow, jerky, streaking across the screen like the developer himself personally shat on my screen and the juice is slowly dripping inevitably towards my keyboard.

This is not a good game. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I do however hope that it in some way contributed towards the greatness that was Midwinter. It was a product of a developer having an idea for a cool technical thing to do (the ship seems to be a vector with shading reacting to some kind of light source, and it’s an impressive size) with a clever mechanic (the heat-seeking missile that gives up and shoots you instead) without necessarily thinking through the consequence for gameplay. This is what happens when a programmer designs a game instead of a designer.

I can only assume that ST/Amiga Format gave it such a high rating because it was their magazine cover disk (this happened surprisingly often) or because they were paid a large cash bribe. I can also assume that the presence of the demo negatively affected sales as people realised that the game was utterly, irredeemably shit.

I am delighted to say I will never touch this god-awful shit-stain of a game ever again.

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