Oh man, here we go again with the artsy videogames. I know, everyone deserves a spot under the sun and the games that want to look deep are great and all, but my problem isn’t with games that try to be deep – it’s with games that try to be deep by featuring some small, childlike creature in a mostly black and white, badly shadowed world, full of disgusting and dangerous, or simply dangerous things. I don’t mean to say that Penumbear is bad, on the contrary, it has a unique, shadow-based core mechanic and a great level design, as well as graphics.
Which is why I’m quite irritated at the fact that it wastes it all, to tell some pretentious story about a poor little teddy-bear and how cruel this world is to him, so he must use his wits to escape the many dangers, I don’t think that I can even count the number of games that have the exact same concept, give or take a teddy-bear. As I already said, the game is letting you experience some sort of an underworld, walking around as a teddy-bear, who was visited by a luminescent fly or something like that, and now roams the world for the unknown reason. What story Penumbear has, is kind of a mess, but it doesn’t really matter. The game itself is great, with a truly captivating mechanic at its core.
The game is more or less, a platformer. You walk around the level, using “right” and “left” buttons to the left and a “jump” button to the right. You can run and perform double-jumps as well, by double-pressing any side button, or a jump button, respectively. Besides running and jumping, your only power, well, it’s not even yours, but of the fly that is always flying with you, is to switch various flashlights on and off, if you come in a close proximity to them.
The trick is that you can’t cross clear borders between shadow and light, so if you look at a pointed light from a non-lighted area, you can’t go inside of it, and vice versa, if you are inside that light, you can’t come out, unless you turn it off. However, you can cross the wide borders of light, easily. This makes a great mechanic for quite a difficult platformer, which not only requires your reflexes to cross various chasms and enemies, but also requires you to test various light combinations, as well as travel around the level a lot. Speaking of which, although heading straight for the exit isn’t that difficult, even if you count the doors that require “keys”, which are actually flies that you need to collect, the difficult part of the game is to try and collect various teddy-bears, lying around the level.
To get to them, you really need to scout around, as well as die several times, actually trying to get to them. All in all, Penumbear is a very interesting and challenging game. There’s only one major problem that I noticed and it’s quite an irritating sound design. Both the bear and most of the sound effects of the game are really getting on my nerves for various reasons, so I actually found it more interesting, to play with the sounds off. Besides that, Penumbear is one solid piece of entertainment.