Penumbear review

Walk towards the light, as the darkness will kill you.

Darkness is one half of our world, and we fear what we cannot see hidden beyond the light. This is where Penumbear is plunged. Somewhere far down in the darkest basement where light is a memory, and only a few scattered fireflies keep it from disappearing completely. With the power to unlock doors, and flicking switches these fireflies become the most important allies Penumbear has ever had. His quest to escape this dark, dangerous and evil castle is just beginning.

Penumbear is a puzzle platformer where you have to guide a bear through darkness. Flicking switches to turn on, and off lights is a fundamental part of the gameplay. Penumbear can walk on light, and often you have to combine different light sources in the right order to solve a puzzle. There are also a lot of incentive to explore levels to find teddy bears hidden in hard to reach spots. Exploration also means that Penumbear will die, a lot, an awful lot. There is an arbitrary checkpoint system that I don’t really grasp. At times you get to restart from the beginning, and at others at a key point next to a light for example.

The controls are all touch based, and work well. Penumbear can jump, double jump and run by tapping the movement twice in a direction. The rest of the controls are context sensitive, and when lights are close by the corresponding button is lit up. Penumbear responds differently in how he jumps depending on his speed. This can mean that I accidentally plunge to my death when I had stopped to get my bearings after making a jump three times wider.

The presentation is dark, and reminds me a lot of Limbo. There is always something lurking in the shadows, and the envornment looks and is harmful. I really enjoy how the game plays with light giving it a physical property. As far as sounds go the voiceovers in the cutscenes are truly disturbing in nature setting a weird tone.

There is an immense amount of content to be found in Penumbear. It can played for weeks if you aim to find all the hidden teddies on the 100+ levels. Bosses are also quite fun, as they demand some puzzles to be solved instead of just using brawn.

Penumbear is a quality puzzle platformer with a lot of content, and unsettling presentation. It never feels casual, and finding all the hidden stuff means you have to be prepared to have Penumbear impaled on spikes quite a lot. Not a game for the kiddies, but rather a game for those into darker games such as Limbo, Nihilumbra or Oscura.

Final Rating


Penumbear $1.99 Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod

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