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Penarium Review


Just. One. More. Go.

That’s the overriding emotion whenever a controller is in my hands and Penarium is running in front of me.

A simple 2D arena game, Penarium tells the story of Willy, a young, plump farmers boy in need of some excitement in his life. When the travelling circus comes to town, Willy gets drawn in by the promises of the ringmaster. But it isn’t long before young Willy’s dreams are crushed, instead replaced by nightmare upon nightmare.

Penarium_Arcade_5 (1)

Put simply, Willy is at the beck and call of this crazed circus leader, a man who will make him run, jump and make him navigate his way safely past a ton of killer death traps, all whilst trying to entertain a crowd that is lusting for blood. It’s only when Willy finally manages to conquer the 30 single player challenge missions will he be able to be crowned king of the Penarium.

And it’s the challenge missions which are the main attraction in Penarium. With three different areas available for Willy to show off his stuff in, simple left, right directions coupled with a jump and double jump are his only way of avoiding the terrors that lurk within the show. It doesn’t take long before he needs to save himself from homing missiles, indestructible lasers, or giant bowling balls, as the ringmaster tries everything in his power to kill him. Reach a set objective though, and Willy will be safely through to the next stage in which he’ll find himself tested by even more devious traps.

To help detract from any boredom that may try and raise it’s ugly head, each of the 30 stages is completed by seeing Willy perfect a certain task. This may involve smashing 30 barrels, playing a game of ‘Simon Says’ with coloured buttons, popping a number of balloons in a set order, collecting body loti…sorry, magical dark potion for the wicked ringmaster or trying to stand in a moving spotlight for as long as possible. With the multiple game modes, you aren’t going to get tired of Penarium in a hurry and, whilst the main campaign is over fairly quickly for any serious gamer, casuals may just find the going a bit tougher. Perhaps a bit too tough for some!


Alongside the main campaign is a pretty in-depth arcade mode. Completely separate from the main event, Willy will have nothing more to do than smash barrels and collect as many coins as possible before dying. These coins are then gathered up into his purse and available to be spent on a number of game-changing cards which power up the arcade mode. Ranging from extra platforms for Willy to stand on, the ability to shrink in size, fly or throw out a cyclops style beam to crush all barrels, there are many cards available and each one, when unlocked, will ensure that Penarium plays out very differently to normal.

There is no point to the arcade mode, other than to collect coins and place higher on the worldwide leaderboards, and similarly, there is no point to the shop and cards other than to compliment the mode that they affect. But compliment each other they do and it’s this arcade mode which works wonderfully well as a five minute time waster…one which you’ll find yourself going back to a number of times.

In fact, I can see some still going back for more arcade action weeks and possibly even months into the future. If you fancy collecting the numerous achievements on offer, a fair few of them are obtainable only by playing through the arcade mode as opposed to the main campaign. But that isn’t bad, because once the main challenge is out of the way, it’ll be the arcade mode that becomes the meat and drink.


Additionally, the inclusion of a local multiplayer mode gives those who have some sofa friends a decent bit of joy. Whilst not in any way as in depth as the single player modes, both a cooperative and versus multiplayer section is ideal for the odd party or two as Willy is joined by his lovely little friend, Rajiv. As is the case with numerous ID@Xbox titles though, online multiplayer is sorely missing and would have been a great addition to an already superb little game.

From the outside Penarium looks like a simple to play arena battler that doesn’t have anything to make it stand out from the crowd. Indeed, whilst the visuals and audio do a job (to be fair, the delightful circus music is bloody catchy!), they by no means sell the game. Instead, the selling is left completely to the fast fluid gameplay that is present throughout, one which when delving deeper, lets you find a sadistic twisted world that occupies a space in the Xbox One library like no other. It’s tough and at times, a right pain in the backside, but it doesn’t take long before you find Penariums addictive nature starting to pulse through your veins.

Just one more go? Go on then!

Neil Watton
Neil Wattonhttps://www.thexboxhub.com/
An Xbox gamer since 2002, I bought the big black box just to play Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee. I have since loved every second of the 360's life and am now just as obsessed with the Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S - mostly with the brilliant indie scene that has come to the fore. Gamertag is neil363, feel free to add me to your list.
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