Penumbear – 8/10


Penumbra: the partially shaded outer region of the shadow cast by an opaque object.
Bear: a mammal of the family Ursidae.
What do you get when you create a game based upon a cute teddy bear that can walk upon platforms and border between light and shadow?  Penumbear!  Everything about this platform-jumping game ($1.99) is well-done, right from the name, through the graphics, to the concept and gameplay.  To find out who he is and why he’s in this ginormous castle, Penumbear, with the help of his firefly friend, must make his way through the 250 levels throughout  different regions of the castle.  The firefly has powers of his own: he acts as pseudo-light switch to turn on and off lights at your command.  Light, obviously a big part of this game, can be used to your advantage to cast shadows on platforms, stone blocks, or other things, creating shadows that Penumbear can walk upon.

In each level, your goal is to get from the beginning to the exit door.  Most of the time, you’ll require keys to open the door.  These can be found hidden somewhere in the level.  The hard part is, these levels are so big and there are lots of places to explore so you’ve really got to be on your toes to find the keys and the exit.  One really bad thing is that, because there is no zoom feature, sometimes you have to just take blind leaps and hope there’s a platform below you to land upon.  If not, well, you’re dead and must start back about 5 minutes worth of exploration.  But get used to the whole dying thing, because Penumbear is very challenging and you’ll surely die a lot before exiting any given level.  Especially as the game progresses.  Most levels also contain “bonus bears,” which are other bears that you can find to save from the dark pits of the dungeons.  If you thought the keys were hard to find, then these things are astronomically harder!  But, this does give the game a lot of replay value, as you can play the many levels over and over to find these bears, even after you beat the game.

As for the controls, the bottom left of the screen gives you the basic left and right arrow buttons.  The right corner has a large circle which is used to jump.  You can jump while in the air (the famed double-jump) too.  Then there are four buttons around the jump button, which are inactive most of the time.  These are the toggles for the lights in the levels, controlled by you controlling that firefly.  The controls work out very nicely for the game.

So, for the conclusion:  Penumbear is a really long game that can easily suck away hours on end, over the course of weeks.  The game looks and runs very cleanly with good physics, and there was clearly a lot of thought put into each level.  Even after you beat the game, you can still go back to try to find all the bonus bears.  But, the game does get extremely frustrating at points.  At lots of points.  Yup, Penumbear is one of those.  Many times, you may find yourself ready to smash your iPhone into pieces or transform your iPad into an iPad mini by brute force.  So, be sure to keep the baseball bats away while playing this one.  One other thing that I didn’t mention that adds to the wonderful ambience of Penumbear is the lack of in-app purchases.  You pay two bucks up front and then enjoy the game all you want.  You’ll never have to pay more to keep progressing, and you’ll never have to play at a lesser level than others just for not paying extra.  Penumbear reminds us of all the gaming goodness that came before the world of freemium apps took over the App Store.  Is it worth the cost?  Yes.  Is it worth the uncracked screen of your iPhone?  No.  But don’t worry about that.  So long as you take out insurance on it before buying Penumbear, all should be fine.  This is a game to have for those platformers looking to be swept up in a full-sized game for your pocket.  8/10!

-TheAppEmperor signing out


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