If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, then Penarium fits that description. Developed by Self Made Miracle and published by Team17, Penarium is a frantic 2D arena arcade game. You play as Willy; a brave farm boy pulled into the fiendish carnival world of Penarium.
The goal of Penarium is to entertain its sadistic audience. To achieve this task, the obstacles that our hero has to avoid are sure to bring instant death or lead towards an impending doom. The carnival will toss giant bowling balls in your path, fire rockets from the top and bottom of the screen and release even more vicious traps the more you play.
Although the game can be quite overwhelming, the game mechanics are quite simple. You move your character left and right and jump or double jump on various platforms. Whenever you pass the edge of the screen, you circle back to the other side. There are different tasks to complete, including smashing barrels to stay in the spotlight for a given time while avoiding obstacles.
There are three game modes in Penarium; campaign, arcade, and local multiplayer. The campaign mode follows the story of Willy as he tries to survive all the traps and obstacles that the ring master throws at him. Each round, Willy will be facing several frustrating objectives of varying difficulty. Each time you die, you’re forced to start over. For example, if you succumb to one of the traps after destroying fourteen of fifteen barrels, you'll have to start from the first barrel all over again.
The arcade mode is similar to the campaign mode, as you face the same obstacles you did in the campaign mode. The difference, obstacles are randomized, so you won't get the same experience every time you play. You'll collect coins throughout, earn enough, and you will be able to purchase some power-ups at the store. These power-ups will help you stay alive in the world of Penarium.
Multiplayer is limited to local only, as two players compete as the contestants Willy and Rajiv, trying to press buttons first. Once you get your fill of fighting, you can team up to push buttons together.
Attempting to avoid a plethora of death-traps led to plenty of rage quitting on my part. Expletives were shouted, but I kept returning in hope to finally beat the level that was giving me trouble.
Penarium has the potential of being one of those games that you can get addicted to, but where it excels most is also its downfall. The rewards that you achieve is minuscule compared to all the deaths that you have to endure.
Note: The Penarium review is based on a digital PC copy of the game.