Penny and Paul's Adventures
I was slightly misled by the title of Penny and Paul to think that it might be some kind of adventure or role-playing game but, as it turns out, itís a maze-style puzzle game. The easy route to take for Geometric Games would have been to pump out yet another generic/abstract puzzler into an already saturated market of mediocre faire, but to their credit they have added some cute visuals and a background story that go some way to appeal to the gaming masses.
The object of the game is to manoeuvre Penny the penguin from her starting position on the 18x17 playfield to an exit square or other objective that might be on the board. Most of the squares on the board are made of slippery ice, and once Penny has a bit of momentum in a certain direction, she will be in perpetual motion until she hits something to stop her. The player controls via the arrow keys and Penny can be moved in those four directions only. Obstacles like rocks will just stop her in her tracks when she hits them, but other devices such as giant rubber bands and turntables will have other effects that can change the direction of the sliding penguin. The player has no control over Penny while she is moving, and has to wait until she comes to an ungraceful stop before issuing the next command.
The titular Paul seems to take no real part in the game at all except to be in communication with Penny via a two-way to give her occasional hints and to explain various game elements in the early levels. The banter between the two does provide some of the most interesting moments in the game. When Paul explains the game candidly to the player as he is simultaneously directing Penny through the game levels, Penny is quite sure that Paul is losing his marbles. And the way that he jauntily balances his ill-fitting headset on top of his giant polar bear head gave me a good giggle too.
Although the gameplay is simple in nature, the levels do get reasonably tricky with the addition of reversible conveyor belts and gates that are remotely opened via crashing into switches. But by mid-way through the story mode, I have pretty much given up. With a bit of thought, and a good few hours to burn up, Iím fairly sure that I could progress significantly further through the game, but the biggest issue that I personally have with the game is that itís just not that much fun to play. I cleared around 30 levels in a combined two and a half hours or so, but have little ambition to progress any further.
Aside from the story mode, in which the objective is to simply clear the level, there is another mode that challenges the player to replay levels that have already been cleared in story mode with additional restrictions on moves in certain directions, and total moves overall.
In fairness, fans of logic based puzzlers will probably get more out of the game than I did. Judging on the complexity of gameplay elements and characters though, the game is inferior to something like "DROD:Journey to Rooted Hold" by a long shot. Likewise when measuring up to a similar styled puzzler such as "Zamby and the Magical Crystals", it falls just short in terms of attractive presentation and features.
There are a few good quality music tracks that accompany the action through the levels. The website mentions ten and, although I didnít hear them all, the ones that did appear in the first half of the story mode did get a little repetitive - especially when I had to restart levels. Sound effects are reasonably good too and play for all actions that Penny takes. The graphical style of the game is minimalist, but the character art is quite cute.
At time of publication of this review a level editor is not available, although the developers have expressed a desire to make one available to the fan community in due course. As a result, the levels that ship with the game (around 60) are the only presently available content.
There are options to run the game full screen or windowed, and also sliders to customise music and sound effect levels as well. The gameplay is kid friendly; puzzle fans of all ages might want to give the demo a go. Not really my cup of tea.
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