Penguins of Madagascar (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Shanker Varma 10.01.2015

Review for Penguins of Madagascar on Nintendo 3DS

To celebrate Private's birthday, the penguins go out in search of copious amounts of Cheezy Dibbles. This basic premise leads to the first of Penguins of Madagascar's four levels before the story and penguins are turned towards stopping the evil octopus Dave, also known as Dr Octavius Brine. Penguins of Madagascar takes the four flightless wonders on a stealth-platforming adventure, as players solve puzzles, avoid octopi and rescue other penguins who have been trapped by the main villain. While this sounds like an adventure worthy of anyone's time, the result is so simple, repetitive and lifeless that it is hard to recommend it to anyone but the most die-hard of all fans of the penguins.

Penguins of Madagascar begins with a brief explanation of the story delivered by presenting the penguins on the top screen, not doing much, while their words are written on the lower screen of the 3DS. This immediately highlights one of the game's disappointing aspects, as the penguins' most endearing features, their amusing voices and hilarious wit, are noticeably absent. These 'cut-scenes' are one of the weakest examples of storytelling, and are even worse given that they fail to capture even a fraction of the charm exhibited by the penguins in the CGI movies and TV show.

Players soon move onto the tutorial level, which lacks any obvious explanation of the game's mechanics. Each of the penguins has a unique ability, which can be used to solve the various puzzles found in each level; however the tutorial gives no opportunity to practice them in any meaningful way. This means levels are often reduced to exercises of trial and error to work out what is necessary to progress.

Screenshot for Penguins of Madagascar on Nintendo 3DS

Unique abilities are often used to add variety, however. Once the solution to a specific problem has been found, it is easily applied to similar puzzles. This means that the majority of the game is uninspired and devoid of any surprises once a player has used the penguins' different abilities in merely one or two different ways. This makes progress very predictable as puzzles are colour coded to correspond to a specific penguin. It won't take long to learn that a red line in front of a door means that Rico will need to solve a very simple and boring puzzle to blow it up.

While the penguins' different abilities create some variation, the majority of the game follows the same blueprint. The aim of each level is to simply find a target before proceeding to the exit. Along the way there are optional objectives, such as collecting Cheezy Dibbles, rescuing penguins trapped in vending machines and avoiding lockdowns, to complete. These add replay value by giving a reason to revisit completed levels, as well as creating more content than simply finding the exit. Unfortunately, the overall experience doesn't seem likely to draw gamers in enough to want to complete these tasks as it feels very repetitive and boring.

Screenshot for Penguins of Madagascar on Nintendo 3DS

Penguins of Madagascar has only four levels, each with a number of checkpoints, but the game doesn't save progress during a level. As a result, levels must be completed in one sitting, which may lead to lost progress. As a 3DS title, it is possible to close the handheld to save battery after pausing, but this is not always an ideal solution to break up gameplay sessions (for example, when travelling). The level design is uninspired and repetitive, with little to differentiate between each of the four locations. This, when combined with the repetitive gameplay, makes completing the game feel very tedious and unrewarding.

These problems are compounded as it is soon discovered just how easy it is to complete every level. It's one thing to tailor the experience for children, so that it isn't too challenging, but Penguins of Madagascar feels almost insulting at times. A big part of the game is made up of sneaking around levels, avoiding security cameras, but it seems that security cameras only recognise penguins whose feet are on the ground and aren't holding boxes, even if the penguins are positioned on the side of the box that literally faces the camera. This means that it is possible to simply jump through a camera's line of sight to avoid detection or drag a box across a room with no regard at all for any cameras, knowing that they won't be caught. The octopi are no better at providing a challenge as they seem unable to see penguins unless they are so close that they can be hit by a penguin before being caught.

One might hope that with very simple gameplay, the presentation may be impeccable enough to provide an experience that rivals the CGI source material. Unfortunately, the visuals in Penguins of Madagascar leave nothing to the imagination and the disappointment felt when looking at it cannot be attributed solely to the hardware of the 3DS. The basic art style is poor when compared to the lively visuals of other titles on the platform, while the 3D effect adds little to nothing to the experience.

Screenshot for Penguins of Madagascar on Nintendo 3DS

To cement the truly lacking presentation, the frame rate often slows down when doing the simplest of tasks, such as jumping while an enemy is on screen at the same time. This can often make progress frustrating as players wait for the game to bring itself up to speed while showing nothing that warrants such hiccups. The camera angle is heavily static, which adds to the frustration as some platforming elements become needlessly tricky thanks to the inability to clearly see where the penguins are and where they need to go. When combined with the patchy frame rate, the camera angle makes progress an achievement for all the wrong reasons.

The penguins' appeal as characters traces back to the first Madagascar movie and their hilarious voices and wit. Unfortunately, both are noticeably absent as the protagonists are not voiced and communicate only through textboxes. This removes a lot of their charm, while the unimaginative writing does an excellent job of driving out any hopes that players may have of recreating the penguins' appeal in their own minds by mimicking their voices. On a related note, the music is equally disappointing as it is very forgettable and eerily similar throughout each level, if not exactly the same.

Screenshot for Penguins of Madagascar on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 4 out of 10


Even though it is aimed at children, Penguins of Madagascar is far too simple, repetitive and unimpressive to warrant a purchase even for the most eager of Penguins fans. The main appeal of the penguins, their humour, is noticeably missing from the game, which itself appears unable to hold a gamer's attention for very long. Other licensed titles, such as the LEGO series, make better use of popular franchises both in presentation of source material and core gameplay mechanics.


Little Orbit


Little Orbit





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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