In a world filled with platforming indie retro games, sometimes you have to do something a little different. That could be in theme, gameplay, or both. While retro style games are nothing new in today’s gaming market, sometimes a game comes along that just seems interesting, unique, and hard, if not completely originally. Come one, come all to the world of Penarium.
Poor little Willy just had a distaste for his life. Day in, day out the same thing over and over again. He wanted something more and he got it. Abducted and taken to the world of Penarium, this is one circus he never thought possible. A source of entertainment for the wicked. Now trapped and forced to perform for a demented game, can Willy survive the gauntlet of traps and dangers? While the core story of is interesting for its set up premises, it does fall a bit flat, luckily this is one title players come to for the gameplay.
Featuring 2d style platforming with arena style levels, Willy will be forced to survive a varied amount of traps and players will be tasked with coming to grips with death over and over again. Willy will succumb to water, bubblegum, bullets, missiles, lasers, giant balls, and more. Whatever the circus can throw at him, he will have to ensure and that means players will have to have a quick platforming trigger finger. Luckily controls are very solid and precise because it’s a necessity for a game of this caliber. Willy can move left and right and double jump. It’s extremely simple and anyone can play that knows how to user the most basic of controls.
Where the fun or frustration occurs is in trying to survive the traps while accomplishing the goals. Each of the 3 worlds have 10 levels and as the levels progress, traps get harder and harder, combing all of them at the last event that will have players sweating to finish in one piece. Some involve chasing balloons, others outrunning deadly lasers while collecting barrels, perhaps remembering color patterns for buttons prompts, or even staying in the spotlight for a designated amount of time. No matter what the objective is, this has to be accomplished all while surviving the elements. It can remind players of something like Joust, but in a more sadistic way. Players can make Willy leap from the left side of the screen only to appear on the ride and vice versa. This will be used plenty of times in figuring out the pertinent path for survival. While most levels take place in similar environments, sometimes they mix it up an include more unique level designs like one set up similarly to the classic barrel throwing Donkey Kong, which is a nice homage.
Penarium is a blast to play but filled with frustration yet also boasts that “one more time feeling”. While the frustration is inherent with what the game is trying to do, I never felt the game cheated me or was at fault. When I died it was my fault, and if I got impatient and tried to rush things, I usually died more. As far as visuals and sound track go, it’s simple and appropriate. I don’t find anything that stands out, but it serves the theme and story perfectly.
Penarium isn’t a long game, but it’s not expensive either. At 9.99 players get a solid 3 hour campaign, arcade mode, and local co-op multiplayer which can add to the insanity. It’s a fun, solid, frustrating game with a unique setting and one that I’m glad I got to experience. I wished the campaign was a little longer and perhaps the story had some more resolution or details to it, but otherwise Penarium is one circus that is worth visiting if folks have the interest and time.
A PlayStation 4 code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes