The Super Penguboy is a game that’s ruined by just one thing. That’s pretty rare: most bad games are ruined by a combination of bad decisions. But in The Super Penguboy, one decision looms over them all, making it suck on a singular, spectacular level.
It sounds so innocuous as we write it. The Super Penguboy has a jetpack. Good for him. Clearly that’s why he’s Super. By holding B, he can thrust himself onto higher platforms, which is essential for completing the thirty levels on offer here. But that jetpack has an energy bar, which is where the terrible decision comes into play.
Use two-thirds, say, of the jetpack’s ‘energy’ and it won’t recharge. You are stuck at one-third. That’s not enough to get you anywhere, as the angry-inch of energy will soon get used up. To force it to replenish, you need to exhaust the bar. Only then will it start recharging. While it’s recharging, you can’t use it. The jetpack is out of action. Only when it’s full can you use it again.
So, what’s the problem? First, we should make it clear that the jetpack is the dominant ability in the game. You get a parachute, but the jetpack can float downwards better than a parachute can. Why would you ever use it? And while Super Penguboy has a laser-blaster, it’s so much easier, quicker and safer to jetpack over enemies than use it. Once you’ve netted the game’s laser-blaster achievements, you probably won’t bother using it much.
Which leaves the jetpack. Oh, the jetpack. The problem is that by only recharging when it’s fully charged, you can get royally shafted when you most need it. Forget to exhaust the bar before you jump over a chasm? Your jetpack’s going to putt-putt-putt until you fall into the abyss. It leads to the behaviour where, before every jump, you empty your jetpack and wait five seconds for it to refill. Every jump. EVERY one.
You soon develop a routine. Whenever you use the jetpack, you make sure to empty it completely. Hovering over to a nearby platform? Well, you’re going to be idly floating above it for a few seconds, just to make sure that it fully recharges. What’s common between all of these solutions is that none of them, not one, is fun. It’s all wasted time and fiddly nonsense when you could be concentrating on the platforming.
We can’t understate it enough: this one decision ruins The Super Penguboy. It’s amazing that it didn’t get caught. But while we point the finger at it and scream “for shame!”, we’re not convinced that The Super Penguboy would have been a worthwhile experience anyway. Not unless 2000G for very little effort counts as a ‘worthwhile experience’ (actually, now that you say it…).
Because The Super Penguboy is a low-budget, low-effort little platformer. Take away the jetpack (please, take it away), and you don’t have much else. There are thirty levels here, and they rattle past at the pace of roughly one per minute. We will let you do the maths there. There’s also very little reason to replay. While there are coins and stars to collect (looking remarkably like each other to add to the confusion factor), they don’t unlock or purchase anything. They just contribute to a few achievements.
In terms of obstacles, there’s not much to get excited about either. While there are three enemies, they each behave identically. So, when you move from the blue levels to the brown and red levels, you are merely swapping the sprite. It walks towards you and is killed with a single bullet. That’s it.
There are spikes, swinging hammers, turrets and platforms that move up and down, but that is all. Difficulty is measured by how wide the gaps are between platforms. It’s only on the final few levels that the design of these levels gets interesting: suddenly The Super Penguboy wants you to use jetpacks and parachutes in combination, and – momentarily – we paid attention. But then The Super Penguboy was over. It was an epiphany five seconds before the game ended.
There are a few other quirks that drop The Super Penguboy a further notch down. Firing with your gun causes you to stop stock-still. When you’re jumping, that’s a problem – you could well fall to your doom. Firing just isn’t integrated well into the floating, jetpacking and jumping. And we have no idea why the player cannot shoot turrets, nor walk on top of them. They’re ghost-turrets that can’t be interacted with, but they most definitely can interact with you.
It may have a penguin on the cover, but The Super Penguboy is a lame duck. He comes with a jetpack that barely works and a gun that’s more effective at sending him to his doom. You could buy this shoddy little morsel for 2000G and the cheap £4.99 price, but you’d have to wonder if you were giving up a little fragment of your soul.