Penny’s Big Breakaway is a perfect blend of old-school platforming and brilliant innovation

May 12, 2024
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Let’s great straight to it – Penny’s Big Breakaway is one of the best platform games I have ever played. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with this game to the point that even months on from its original release date, I still think about and play it regularly. It’s the kind of game where within the first few minutes, you instantly know you’ll be playing and replaying for years to come. Developed by Evening Star – the team behind Sonic Mania – what we’re looking at here is a game that fully understands Sonic’s momentum-based platforming on a level that is rarely observed, translated into 3D in a way that not even Sonic Team has truly managed.

In a sense, Penny’s Big Breakaway is a game that feels as if it were built in 1995 during the rise of 3D graphics by time travellers from the modern era, bringing with them today’s modern knowledge and know-how. It’s a perfect blend of old-school sensibility and innovation: a rare treat in today’s gaming industry. It’s also a game built entirely using in-house, from-the-ground-up technology. This is not a Unity or Unreal project, it’s entirely bespoke, running at native 4K at a full 120 frames per second on everything from Xbox Series S upwards – another rarity.

At its core, Penny’s is a 3D platforming game. You play through a series of stages all based on different themes, you jump, you run and aim for the goal – with a twist – the Yo-Yo. Yo-Yo is Penny’s personal multi-tool – harnessing its power, players can attack, fly and speed across the map – it’s fast, it’s original and it’s fun. It’s also the key to the game’s momentum system: tap the Yo-Yo button and Penny hops on board, riding the Yo-Yo like a Razor scooter around the map. Even better, Evening Star has implemented a simple combo system allowing you to chain together moves as if you were playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater – the Yo-Yo basically works like a manual in that game chaining together combos along the way. The thing is, like Sonic, while the controls feel simple enough, there is a lot of depth there and, as you play, you’ll find yourself adapting, slowly mastering the controls while executing increasingly lengthy combos.

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