By Henry Badilla / October 5th, 2017
|Developer||Too Kind Studio|
|Publisher||Plug in Digital|
|Release Date||September 21, 2017|
|Genre||2D Adventure, Sidescroller|
|Platform||PS4, Xbox One, PC|
It’s funny how the mind of a gamer usually works. Put a maximum number of something in a game, and you are sure that your players will try to maximize it. Give them 100 quests and they will beat them all. Need to collect 1000 stars? Consider it done! And that’s the type of game that Pankapu is, around 400 collectibles, plus upgrades all packed into a 2D sidescroller. The question is, can it stand out in a world where everyone is trying the same thing?
The story starts with a young girl named Djaha’rell who has constant nightmares. To help her fall asleep, her father tells her the story of Pankapu, the guardian of the world of dreams, and how he was summoned by his creator, Iketomi, to defeat a group of nightmare creatures called Hya’nagis that are invading this world.
Through the game you control Pankapu in a series of 2D scenarios that are part of Omnia, the world of dreams. As a good sidescroller you have to navigate through the scenario to reach its end, while fighting the different hordes of enemies. And while the game starts basic, allowing you only to attack, jump and defend, soon you’ll start unlocking new abilities that also work as ways to solve the environmental challenges in the game.
What really differentiates this game is the use of Aegises. While technically artifacts, these work like different outfits that Pankapu can wear, granting him different abilities, and can be swapped during the game at any time by the press of a button. I mentioned earlier the ability to defend, this is unique to the starter Aegis. The second one allows you to attack with a bow and double jump, but makes you more vulnerable to enemy attacks, and the third one is specialized in magic attacks.
Since you start with just one Aegis and a few skills, the first section of the game feels very simple and linear. But as soon as you unlock the second one the game starts to shine. You get greater challenges involved in changing to the best armor for each part, more relentless enemies and some very tight platforming sections.
Additionally, there are four Nebulas that can be attached to each Aegis. They represent the elements of fire, ice, earth, and darkness and grant both elemental properties and variation to the corresponding attack. For example, a boomerang-like attack changes to a laser beam while using the fire Nebula. These are unlocked after defeating a boss and while these don’t impact progression, it’s something nice to keep combat fresh.
Even with these abilities combat is still quite simple, just smash the attack button three times for a quick combo and using the best ability for each situation will get you through the game. However, it’s the exploration where Pankapu shines. Each level has a group of Mudjins, small spherical spirits that you need to collect. Additionally, there are some small life fragments that you have to collect, four increasing your life total, as well as forges that increase your attack, among other upgrades and collectibles.
And while I don’t think this game falls under the Metroidvania category, the same concept of returning to previous levels once you receive a new ability exists, and I’m a sucker for it. Thankfully on the world map you can see how many collectables are in each area and how many are still missing, which makes it easy and satisfying.
My only real issue with the game is with the bosses. Compared to the rest of the game they can be quite challenging and certainly take a couple of tries to get them right. They are not intuitive and in the end it’s more about learning the pattern completely than reacting to their attacks. The biggest offender is the penultimate boss. You have to avoid his attacks while jumping through falling platforms. On the second part it’s the same but he will remove platforms sporadically, so you may be jumping to a platform only for it to be removed and you get damaged in the process. And at the end you have to do the same thing, but the platforms are ascending instead, which makes the jumps more difficult since you may jump to a platform that, by the time you reach your maximum jump height, is higher and unreachable. The easiest way is to memorize the order of attacks and just hope that you reach that platform on time.
In regards to the game graphics these are all 2D assets with a cartoonish look for its characters. The backgrounds are quite detailed and while there are a couple of repeated enemies with different colors, overall the designs are unique and interesting. Most stages are very colorful and while this art style has become a little common lately, it still looks good.
I have nothing to comment on the music of the game. It sounds good, it matches the game style and provides a good background to each stage. But it didn’t leave a lasting appeal to me.
It took me 18 hours to collect everything there is to collect in the game and beat the final boss, and I really had a good time playing through it. I don’t usually go for 100% in a game unless I like it. However, the story could have been worked out more. There are certain elements that suggest that there is more to it than simply defeating evil, but the game never explains that part of the story in detail.
Pankaku is currently available for $12, which I feel is quite a bargain for the amount of content that you’ll get. It’s a really fun game for those who love to collect things in a 2D world, and unless you are not a fan of platforming and combat, I don’t see why you shouldn’t give it a shot.
Review copy provided by the publisher.