“Addictive and Brain-bustingly Challenging”. That’s how I would describe Penarium after spending the best part of a day playing the game. I say “playing” but what I really mean to say is “dying repeatedly and being reduced to tears from my repetitive failure”.
Upon loading the game, you’re presented with a 2D short animation which explains the story of how the main character ended up in such a terrible, creepy, murderous circus.
Willy, which is the main characters’ name, lived on a farm with his Father. One day a circus caravan drove past and a mysterious figure appeared from the dust-filled distance. The mysterious man promises Willy an extraordinary adventure… all he has to do is hop into the Caravan.
This animated story lasts around 2 – 3 minutes before slowly introducing you to the concept of the entire game. From what I understood, the only aim is to survive. This was really vague at first, because I wasn’t exactly too sure what to assume from the word “survive”. Later on, I learned exactly what it meant.
The one aspect I found irritating about the controls in this game, is that there is only three controls. Three. These consisted of moving left, moving right and jumping. However, the minimal controls quickly made up for themselves, when the ringleader (who is more of a tutorial guides-man) explains the double jump option.
You’re probably wondering how an explanation for the ability to double jump could possibly make up for three measly controls. Well, explaining how a character is able to double jump (jump once, and then jump again while in mid-air) has never really happened before in a video game. Certainly not any that I have played anyway. So when the ringleader said “Penariums’ enchanted atmosphere allows you to double jump in thin air”, you could imagine my excitement.
Another feature I really liked about Pentarium is the fact that the walls are wrapped. This basically means you can exit out of one wall, and enter through another. This reminded me of Pacman, a game that once ruled my childhood.
The main mode of gameplay is Campaign. This consists of 10 levels, which when I saw the small number I thought “I’m going to complete this game in like 10 minutes!”… that isn’t what happened. I reached my peak at level 5, I spent the next 30 minutes enduring a painful and frustrating death streak. I could not for the life of me (excuse the pun) stop dying.
But that is what makes this game great! For some unexplained reason, regardless of how many times I died and how much I wanted to launch my controller through my display, I had the urge to continue playing. I had the urge to beat the game. It reminded me a lot of ‘Flappy Bird’.
I eventually gave up on the campaign as I pushed my body to the limit trying to pass the 5th level, and I discovered the Arcade mode. This is like the Campaign, however it is never-ending. You smash barrels and collect coins, all while avoiding many, many, many traps. Similar to the Campaign, this quickly gets repetitive.
Which is where the developers spiced things up a little bit, and I’m glad they did.
In Arcade mode, the coins you collect from barrels, get added to a wallet each and every single time you die. You can use these coins to purchase ‘cards’ (powerups) from the in-game shop, and they will give you various benefits in arcade mode. These can range from allowing your character to walk faster, all the way to a powerup that lets you jump further.
Admittedly, the prices are fairly high for in-game prices. Each powerup costs 500 coins, and since you die an abnormally large amount of times, it took me forever to save up. In fact, I still have 384 coins after spending a good hour on Arcade mode. So although I haven’t experienced the benefit these powerups can bring to your gameplay, I can imagine they come in handy when you need that little extra boost to avoid certain death.
Now, there is a third and final game mode; Multiplayer. Unfortunately for myself (and plenty of other hopeful players who assumed it would be online) it is entirely local. This means you need two controllers, and can only play on one screen. It’s unfortunate that I can’t review this section myself, as it does sound like a lot of fun. Playing with or against family members, avoiding traps and smashing barrels, who wouldn’t want that?
As you will see below, I have provided some multiplayer gameplay which I hope will give you an insight on how amazing the multiplayer mode is, even though it isn’t online.
Overall, Penarium is a fantastic game to pass the time. Although I never completed all
10 levels 30 levels (Ed.Note: there’s a total of 30 levels split into 3 parts, 10 for each, Ben couldn’t get past the first 10 so subsequent levels were not shown.), I could imagine that once you do, the game will get boring very quickly. Hopefully the developers and publishers release DLC in the future, because this game has so much potential. I’d love to see online competitive gameplay for Penarium!