Penny's Big Breakaway

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Penny's Big Breakaway review
JackCarter

Review

Charming 3D platformer

Gaming of years gone by


Penny's Big Breakaway harkens back to the 3D platformers of yore in more ways than one – most good, some bad. Developed by Evening Star and creatively led by Christian Whitehead, who, as you might know, are the people that brought us Sonic Mania, it's easy to see Penny's Big Breakaway's old-school platformers roots. If it wasn't for the visual fidelity and the longer draw distance, it would fit neatly with the likes of Glover and Spyro the Dragon.

First, the good – were you let down from Yuji Naka's 2021 platformer Balan Wonderworld? Well Penny's Big Breakaway might fill that void. This honestly feels like it was ripped from the late Sega, Saturn, or Playstation days. When everything is working right, the game can feel more like an extreme sports game than a platformer. It feels great using your yo-yo (the games main plot item and the core of the gameplay) to chain a swing into a dash and then landing into riding it, then back into a swing and dash. This isn't a knock against the game when I say that I had the best time essentially speedrunning the levels. There is an extra challenge in grabbing collectibles or doing little jobs for the townsfolk you meet in each level, but obviously these aren't required.

The presentation is great as well. Penny's design is charming and can easily exist in the world of something like Nights into Dreams. The story is equally as charming and whimsical, providing just the right amount of plot to give Penny a reason to traverse a bright and colorful land filled with dangerous penguins and angry bulls with her sentient yo-yo. It's gameplay is fun and fast paced, giving you as much as you want to do. The soundtrack is also fantastic and fitting, as it always keeps the tempo up to keep the action moving.

Some frustrations


Now, the bad – As much fun as I had with Penny's Big Breakaway, I had almost equal frustration. It was enough to leave a bad taste in my mouth, so to speak. For starters, the camera is just plain awful. It's not player controlled, but rather it is fixed to follow the player and at times offer cinematic angles. In a platformer, that often requires precision or the camera can feel like an enemy in itself, often causing more deaths than the actual in-game enemies. To add to that, the shadow that appears under the players character when they are up in the air doesn't appear until your almost touching the ground. If you have ever played any 3D platformer, you'll know how important it is to have an accurate shadow appear while in air. It's the very thing that will show you where you'll be landing. So, couple that with a fixed camera and it's easily a recipe for disaster. There were what felt like countless times that I died from landing in the wrong place. A true, enjoyable challenge is when your failure is caused by your mistake and not the mistake of the game.



There's also the glitches. Oh god, the glitches. I was stuck in more walls than I'd care to admit. It can be especially egregious during boss fights. One boss fight made me want to break my controller in half. Let me set the scenario – Sheila, the owner of a boat you need, is angry that you ruined her audition. In classic boss fashion, this means that she's going to throw things at you as you scurry around the boat and try to fix her ship. When she throws her hammer, you can knock it back to daze her, thus giving you an opening to jump to the upper deck to turn a big screw to repair it (I know, video game logic.) This has to be done a total of three times, each time getting harder. When I would try to jump to the upper deck I would get stuck in the ledge, which would hold me there for a second before dropping me back down. It would also cancel my double jump. In that amount of time, Sheila would wake up from her daze and we'd do the whole song and dance over again. Other times while getting to the boat, where you're supposed to ride your yo-yo over water while dodging projectiles, my yo-yo would come to a dead stop and drop me into the water, effectively killing me. Each time you lose 1 bar of health out of 4, once all 4 are gone, your character dies and you have to start the boss fight from the beginning. I made sure there was nothing hitting me to cause me to stop so abruptly, it just did. It was also random, happening enough times to make it particularly infuriating.

All that being said, Penny's Big Breakaway is not a bad game. It's clear there is a lot of love and passion put into it. The good, for the most part, outweighs the bad as it is quite charming and fun when you're not fighting against the wonky camera or frustrating glitches. I would recommend Penny's Big Breakaway only to fans who love the genre. If Evening Star can take what they've learned here and iron out the kinks, then I think they could make something truly spectacular.


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7.0

fun score

Pros

Fun fast gameplay, Charming characters and world

Cons

Frustrating camera, Infuriating glitches