Back in October 2011, a game called Whale Trail was released for iPhone and iPad. It was marvellous fun… for grown-ups. Which was frustrating, because it also had many of the hallmarks of a smash hit for children too.
The game involved piloting a cute cartoon whale called Willow through the skies, collecting bubbles and stars, avoiding grumpy clouds, and trying not to fall off the bottom of the screen, where a tentacly villain named Baron von Barry was waiting.
The psychedelic colours, lovely characters and singalong theme tune – contributed by Gruff Rhys of the Super Furry Animals – looked perfect for kids But the game was too hard: the whole not flying into clouds or falling off the screen part was a bit too advanced for younger children.
We remember thinking at the time ‘if only they’d add a mode designed specifically for kids where you can’t die’. Lo and behold, developer ustwo has gone and done just that, releasing it as a brand new game called Whale Trail Junior.
All those elements we loved first time round remain in place: the visuals, music and simple one-touch controls (you press on the screen to make Willow fly upwards, then stop pressing to make him fly down again). But you can now fly merrily through clouds, and if you hit the bottom of the screen, Willow bumps along happily under his own steam.
The game now focuses on collecting five stars on the various levels, which are themes around colours: Red, Orange, Indigo and so on. Every time your child completes a level, they unlock the next one, as well as a different whale to control. There are nine levels to unlock and 12 whales in total.
There are no in-app purchases, unlike the adult version of Whale Trail, and no ads either. It’s a free download on the App Store for iPhone and iPad, partly as promotion for the separate Whale Trail e-book which is also being released today: something we’ll be writing about later on.
Our three and five year-old sons, who’d liked the look of the original Whale Trail but couldn’t master its gameplay, have been loving Whale Trail Junior since we got a review copy a couple of weeks ago.
It’s brought a sparkle to their eyes, and when the music speeds up after completing a level, it even makes them get up and dance around our iPad, which is great fun to see. It’s a joyous game, and well worth downloading if you have 3-6 year-old children.