Penguin Party Review—Party Like It’s $00.00

PenguinPartyTitle

One of the disappointing things about PS Mobile so far is that games have been rather expensive, especially when you compare them to similar releases on mobile. Penguin Party from XMPT Games bucks that trend. While we have seen a number of games that are listed as “Free,” such as Lemmings or that Everybody’s Arcade compilation, in truth they barely qualified as demos, much less as free games.

Penguin Party is the exact opposite, where the base game is essentially free, and the only in-app purchase at present is a donation which gives you nothing but a hat and monocle for your penguins, and the satisfaction of knowing you’ve rewarded the developers.

Who hasn't wanted to control a flock of penguins?

Who hasn't wanted to control a flock of penguins?

All this would be moot if Penguin Party were a terrible game. But it’s not. It’s actually a very good game. It reminds me of Idiot Squad, or a horizontal version of Lemmings, but apparently it’s inspired by the puzzle mode of a Dreamcast and Game Boy Advance game named “ChuChu Rocket!“. The goal is to guide penguins from their homes to a goal (represented by a fish), while picking up balloons on the way (if you want gold on that level, at least). You do this not by directly controlling the penguins, but by laying down directions on the screen in the form of arrows: left, right, up, and down.

There are, of course, obstacles. Terrain plays a big role; you can only place arrows on empty spaces, not rocks or water. Rocks are impassable, and while penguins can move through water, they have to watch out for sharks, which move about on a fixed path. The further you play into the game, the more gameplay elements get added. For instance, eventually ice blocks appear which you can use to squish sharks, by having the penguin push the blocks onto them (though I would think that would just make them sink).

It would be nice if you could read this from a help menu, not just from redoing a level.

It would be nice if you could read this from a help menu, not just from redoing a level.

Penguin Party is played using the touchscreen. To place a direction arrow on the playing field, you touch the spot where you want it, then drag your finger the way you want the arrow to indicate. For the most part, it works, but sometimes you get an arrow pointing the wrong way (usually up). You can easily fix mistakes by hitting the the Destroy button and tapping the offending arrow, or by resetting them all.

I would have liked an option to use the D-pad, though, maybe pressing X to select the tile where you want to put an arrow, then pressing the D-pad in the direction you want the arrow to point.

Top hat (and monocle) are what you get for donating, as well as self-satisfaction.

Top hat (and monocle) are what you get for donating, as well as self-satisfaction.

As it stands right now, Penguin Party has one map pack (free) with 60 different levels broken up into sets of 12 each, plus a short 3-level tutorial. While you have to unlock each set of levels sequentially, at any given time at least 3 different levels are unlocked, and you only need to complete 10 of 12 levels in a set to unlock the next. So, there isn’t any frustration if you get stuck on a level (you’d think this would be standard in puzzle games by now, but I still run into it a lot).

The graphics are fairly simple, but they added some nice touches, like reflections of your penguins on the ice. There seems to be only one song, but it’s catchy enough, if generic.

Look at the nice reflection as he steps into the water....

Look at the nice reflection as he steps into the water....

Even if Penguin Party weren’t essentially free, it would be an excellent game. While it might not technically be original, it’s not exactly a crowded genre, and it executes the premise extremely well, with smooth difficulty progression and cute graphics. About the only thing wrong with it is perhaps somewhat overly touchy touchscreen controls that sometimes cause a wrong arrow to appear, and no real in-game help, only tutorials explaining things. While it’s not an overly complex game, a short screen with a refresher on how to play the game would be helpful. After taking a break from my Vita for about a week, I forgot just how the touch controls worked. Not a big deal.

But since it is free, I really can’t think of a reason anyone wouldn’t download it and try it. Well, unless they are afraid of penguins (allegedly pigkouinosophobia), but I think that only afflicts 14 people in the world. The only other downside is that when you run out of maps, you’ll want more. Thankfully a new map pack will be on its way soon, and presumably the price will be reasonable.

9.5/10

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Comments

3 Responses to “Penguin Party Review—Party Like It’s $00.00”
  1. AxelMill98 says:

    I shouldn’t have come here *sigh*

    Anyway, this game is really really good. I WILL pay the donation, because the makers really
    deserve that.
    You know what would be cool? A level editor. Oh yeah.

  2. onmode-ky says:

    “if you want gold on that level, at least”

    What do you do with the gold in the game?

    “sometimes you get an arrow pointing the wrong way (usually up)”

    At least it isn’t pointing at your knee. . . .

    “There seems to be only one song, but it’s catchy enough, if generic.”

    Dooby dooby doo. . . . <— You’ll have to have watched TV in America about 15 years ago to understand this.

  3. Sniper D. Luffy says:

    Good like Lemmings good.

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