Penny’s Big Breakaway caught my attention immediately. Here was a 3D platformer that understood the assignment, a vibrant adventure with the promise of clever traversal mechanics and a good old time. Imagine, if you will, taking the trusty Mario blueprint, splashing a bit of Crash Bandicoot over the top and mixing it all together with a healthy dose of 90s 3D mascot. It’s a healthy concoction, one that evokes memories of sitting around a tiny screen in my youth collecting coins with glee – and having spent a few hours with it I can happily say it’s nailing the brief.
Your yo-yo is your key to adventure, interacting with the environment in multiple ways. You’ll ride it down ramps like a giant wheel, swing it around to collide with obstacles and enemies, zipline and use its momentum to cross gaps to your advantage. Penny is all about getting from A to B quickly, as her kit affords plenty of ways to build up speed. Traversing around the pastel-coloured platforms feels polished. It put a big grin on my face when it all clicked, as I flung Penny down ramps at high speed and leapt across gaps with reckless abandon.
Penny’s yo-yo has a myriad of different uses
Combat isn’t difficult either. Most of your time will be trying to evade capture from a bunch of penguin guards that amusingly chase you around. If too many grab on and slow Penny down, it’s game over, but by swinging the yo-yo around you can quickly shake them off and get away. These little chase sequences between the usual exploration and platforming jumping add a fun wrinkle to each level.
The right stick of your gamepad can be used to swing the yo-yo out in any direction, as opposed to changing camera perspectives as other titles often relegate it to. That’s not a slight either way, as the fixed camera perspectives never interfered with progress. Otherwise, most your time will be using the face buttons, and that all feels right so far.
I do have my concerns that later levels may run out of ideas to keep things fresh over a longer time period, but within the first handful of levels the preview offered, there seems to be enough progression with Penny’s story and some clever ideas to push her forward. I did, however, die quite a lot falling down gaps. Nobody’s fault but my own, perhaps, but I can see the younger crowd mistiming jumps and getting frustrated. Penny’s health bar affords a few mistakes, at least, but there are moments where speeding along too fast can cause problems.
No awkward drowning in water sequences here
Even at this early stage, Penny’s Big Breakaway feels like it’s on the right path towards a positive outcome. Penny and her trusty yo-yo appeal to my old spirit, that classic experience that’s been lacking in modern game design. There have been attempts to recapture that magic in recent years (Yooka-Laylee for one), but hopefully developer’s Evening Star can polish this one up to a wondrous shine. So far, so very good.
Penny’s Big Breakaway currently has an early 2024 release window on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Switch and PC. We will have more on the game once a final release date hits the airwaves.
Previewed on PC // Preview code supplied by publisher