Someone needs to tell Penguin that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Waking up every day on their iceberg, Penguin has looked longingly at Super Sunny Island and wondered what it must be like to live there. Hot beaches, green fields, sunny naps. One day Penguin says stuff it, and goes for it. It swims over to the island, only to find that it’s been invaded by pirates. Worse, the pirates have created robot armies, as if they were expecting someone to challenge them. Worse still, Penguin only has a water pistol.
We’d have swum right back. The pirates can have it. But no: Penguin is determined to rain watery hell on the pirates, clearing the island of hundreds of robots in the process. It’s a massacre. Sometimes you have to wonder: are you the villain here?
It is, as you’d probably expect, a completely disposable backdrop for some budget platforming. Super Sunny Island is a platforming-shooter hybrid that we would compare to Megaman if that didn’t put the bar way, way too high in terms of challenge and quality. It’s Megaman if he had a boot fair, selling everything he owned. It’s the most stripped back, minimalist Megaman you are ever likely to play.
Super Sunny Island has 101 levels in its locker. It’s a lot, but it should also give you an indication of how long its levels are. They are short, to the point that they’re barely a few screens long, and you could complete one in under a minute. Your aim is to reach the furthest-right area of the level, and that means navigating all of platforming’s greatest hits: moving platforms, disappearing platforms, and blocks that you have to nudge next to platforms. There’s a whole lot of platforms.
Interspersed throughout are keys. Collect three keys, and you can unlock a chest that conveniently sits just before the level’s end. That chest has a star-coin within it, and there are achievements in place for grabbing enough of them. You will also need a certain number of star-coins if you want to progress. Each of the boss levels has a prerequisite of them, you see.
As a platformer, Super Sunny Island is just fine. It’s harmless. We could mindlessly complete each level without a single bead of sweat forming, and that’s as backhanded a compliment as you might think it is. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the controls; the responsiveness is as you would hope. But the game never rises up to offer a challenge. The platforming is sleepily dull, the levels rarely add anything new to overcome, and we’re confident in saying that level 100 isn’t much more fiendish than level 1.
Lucky, then, that Super Sunny Island spices it up with some shooting – but only mildly spices it up. Think chicken korma. Because you have a water pistol, and that allows you to attack the cast of trundling robots that you come across in Super Sunny Island. Almost every enemy you encounter is a one-hit kill, so it’s a simple matter of getting close to them and savaging them with some H2O.
Unfortunately, as a shooter, Super Sunny Island doesn’t cut the mustard. There are a few culprits for the absence of mustard-cutting. The enemies are an extremely lightweight cast, for one. They might give the illusion of variety as new character models get added reasonably frequently, but the designers don’t go so far as change how they behave. There are the odd flying ones, walking ones, walking ones with aggro, and swimming ones. But that’s about it, give or take some recolours and sprite changes.
Shooting is inelegant, mostly because robots have a habit of standing on platforms that are higher than you, or swimming below you. But you can only fire horizontally (latter upgrades help a tad, offering things like three-way bullets), and you have to be extremely precise when you do. We found ourselves jump-firing, desperately hoping that it would hit, but ended up only framing them with water-bullets.
Super Sunny Island uses an inexplicable ammo-based system. You don’t have infinite shots: you have to pick up water ammo to use. Run out, and you aren’t able to kill anything, which makes some platform sequences unlikely, if not impossible. Your ammo count is then persistent across levels, which is a mindblowingly bad call, as you then have to ditch the level and hunt for easy levels to replay to get that water back up to full. We’ve never replayed levels simply to restock ammo before, and there’s a good reason why not.
Compounding the mistake, Super Sunny Island then does exactly the same with life points. You have three health pips in Super Sunny Island, represented by sunglasses and then a baseball cap tumbling off Penguin. Get hit when you are a nude penguin, and you will restart the level as… a nude penguin. You don’t get your sunglasses or hat back, so you are now in the perilous position of being one hit away from death. Hump it out of the level and you are still nude, which means you have to grind easy levels to get your hearts back to full. It’s a barmy decision, one that could have been sidestepped with any number of different approaches. We hope to never encounter it again.
But you know what? For all the clear, Antarctica-sized holes in Super Sunny Island, we had a bit of fun with it. The levels are mindless but also frictionless, and the controls work well. After a hard day’s work, we found it positively relaxing, churning through minute-long levels without a quibble. Sure, we’d grumble at the odd enforced level replay, but we began to treat Super Sunny Island as a warm-up for better, harder games, and began to see the virtue of it. We’d steamroll through bosses and ratchet thirty levels in one play session, and feel like we achieved something. Ah, if only it were true.
So, set your expectations accordingly, and the £4.99 of Super Sunny Island may actually be worth it. It’s a chance to relax while jumping and shooting. It’s Megaman on Holiday.
You can buy Super Sunny Island from the Xbox Store