This 2D platformer may have a cute exterior, from the cartoony critters that inhabit the off-kilter worlds to the teddy bear protagonist who squeaks with joy every time he completes a level. But that fluffy presentation hides a challenging game that will test your reflexes on the morning commute.
Penumbear’s set-up is simple enough: guide teddy to the exit using the on-screen left, right and jump buttons, avoiding any crawling gribblies as well as perilous drops, spikes, automated laser beams and other lethal nasties. However, things are complicated by the scattered coloured bulbs, which cast shadows across the 2D landscape. Teddy can run across these shadows like platforms, but they can also bar his way, meaning you’ll need to be smart when activating or deactivating them. To add more complexity, these bulbs can only be toggled from a short range using special flying insects, which have to be collected before they can be used.
Penumbear starts off at a gentle pace but quickly ramps up the difficulty, and soon you’ll be forced to make pixel-perfect jumps while buzzing things desperately try to knock you off to your doom. As long as you’re up for a challenge, you’ll get a kick from some of Penumbear’s more perilous levels and completing them sure is satisfying (although a skip feature is also available for the weak-willed). They’re short enough to tackle during short journeys and with dozens to complete, you’ll be platforming for quite some time too.
Final kudos must be given to Penumbear’s excellent presentation. Every light throws out gorgeous vibrantly coloured beams, and the shadowy atmosphere is both engaging and brooding. Platforming fans looking for something a little different should definitely check it out.