I‘m going to start right out of the gate saying that The Next Penelope is a great game. Playing Penelope was actually my first foyer into top-down racing and she was the right date to ask to my first dance. The game is smooth, stylish and tough as hell. But let’s break it down into small, easy-to-chew bites.
The look of TNP is simple but effective. In-game graphics are sharp and colorful, which match the lightning fast action perfectly. Special effects are not over-the-top, but don’t feel lacking either—nothing gets in the way of the gameplay, instead only enhancing it. Cutscenes are presented with thickly-outlined illustrated characters that contrast with the graphics well.
The premise of the game is pretty interesting. The developers took the ancient Greek epic The Odyssey and applied it to futuristic setting where Odysseus’s wife, Penelope, is searching the galaxy for her missing husband. It just turns out that everyone wants to race her wherever she goes. You know, the usual. And even if you don’t give a rat’s ass about Greek mythology, you’ll likely still appreciate TNP‘s badass futuristic take on classic figures like Poseidon, the minotaur, the sirens and others.
Like I said earlier, TNP is fairly hard. Each series of courses starts with a simple level where you learn your new move, then progresses to a harder course where you go up against other racers and are made to take first place before you go on. Finally, the third course of each series is a boss battle. That’s right, a big 0l’ grumpy boss. TNP isn’t a pure racer, and instead has a bit of shoot ’em up mixed in for good effect. As you progress through the game you are awarded different attacks and other techniques that help you combat the other racers and bosses. Laser shots, mines, grappling hooks and boosters are a few of the goodies you’ll have at your disposal. Boss battles often take place in open arenas where you pretty much have to stage drive-bys on the big baddy while being chased by minions and sometimes even doing a bit of bullet hell dodging.
The light Metroidvania aspect of getting a new technique after each series is also complemented by a light RPG system where you pick up XP after each race with which you might purchase other optional stat boosts and buffs. XP is awarded by not only completing courses, but by collecting it on the course (like Mario Kart coins) and by using certain moves correctly. But you have to watch out, because your special moves all drain energy in the same way brushing against walls and obstacles does, and there are only a few spare ways to get your energy back.
Smooth, stylish and most of all fun, The Next Penelope delivered on all fronts. Though if you aren’t willing to replay a boss stage a dozen times in a row then you should keep in mind that unless you are a top-down racer/shmup vet, that’s going to happen. And I do have to add that the core game is rather short and won’t take you more than three or four hours, even with many restarts. But that just means you’ll be on to the next awesome indie game on your list, right?
- Colorful and fun graphics
- Fast and furious gameplay
- Interesting premise
- If you're a wimp, it might be too hard