Pankapu (PlayStation 4) Review

By Eric 30.09.2017

Review for Pankapu on PlayStation 4

Platformer games have experienced a renaissance of sorts. Once thriving on the SNES, they genre died and languished on the DS for a long time. Within the last few years many games have started to fill this once-dead void, ranging from great and fun, to those that keep making mistakes learned years ago. Pankapu is styled after 90's platformers - those growing up playing those will feel the similarity. It takes place in a colourful dream world with a darker undertone to the narrative, but, unlike many of its genre siblings, it did not learn its lesson from the titles it wanted to emulate.

The multitude of flaws at hand are not immediately apparent, but it does not take long for them to begin creeping in. The player is greeted with a great, colourful, fully-voiced comic book opening. It sets the bar high and looks to be fairly good production value-wise. It tells a story about a girl who is scared and is read the fantasy of Pankapu, leading to you assuming the role of the eponymous hero. It's a fairly simplistic platformer. He can jump, block and slash. Things change a little later, but this holds true throughout. Fighting random blob enemies, he must make his way across various levels as a story is slowly told to them, and along the way Pankapu gets a few upgrades such as a small AOE attack to the sword slash.

Screenshot for Pankapu on PlayStation 4

Staying with the basics is never a problem in the genre, but this is where the flaws come in rather quickly. The artwork is great, the colours are bright and vivid, but as will be seen, this is about the only good thing in here. Even from the beginning the controls are purposely sluggish. There is a startup and cooldown with all moves, and many cannot be done when they would most be useful, such as pulling out the shield while in the air. This leads to many deaths as the character falls helplessly through the sky, getting pummelled by things it's not possible to fight against.

It is interesting in that there are no lives, and checkpoints are less than one minute apart from the previous. There's an unholy level of frustration present in the game, though, that ramps up less than a few hours into the game. Without the checkpoints the game would literally be unplayable given the frequent deaths, as Pankapu is a wreck to control. His jumps are often too short, his moves are laggy, and there is a true hit-stun that often destroys jumps or timing. A typical example of a platforming section might be a bunch of flying enemies, some foes further away shooting, and platforms with spikes that come up on a timer, with a bottomless pit below.

Screenshot for Pankapu on PlayStation 4

The screen is filled with obstacles, and unlike some other platformers, the character is woefully unable to deal with this. Any single hit will often hit-stun or outright adjust the character's position such that they die - thrown back to the checkpoint to attempt the same segment 20 more times until they luck their way through. Additionally, the story leaves much to be desired. It hints at a 'darker' real life but is only told through flashes of scenes, and the dreamworld story is shallow and forgettable.

There is an upgrade system where new moves are learned, but many of them simply are not worth bothering, for example there is a downwards stab move learned early, but using it causes a few second wait as the character pulls the sword out of the ground. Given there is literally no reward for fighting, and checkpoints are not that far away the game is often about running forward, not engaging any enemies at all. The level design is suspiciously simple and repetitious, and even getting new 'classes' (such as the ranger or the mage) does so little to pull this out of the wreck it finds itself in.

Screenshot for Pankapu on PlayStation 4

The first world serves as a good example of the entire problem of the game. At first we are introduced to some cutesy music and a simple level. Rapidly, as stated above, the level design turns frustratingly hard, but the same music is still playing level after level. The first world's boss gives little clue to actually do damage to it, all the while the same stupid song plays on. After defeating it (the 'secret' being to attack a random enemy out of a horde that offers no distinguishing features) the player is moved to the next world, an underground cave, but while the colours are different the frustration continues, as this time we cannot see anything, and only have a very small light in front of the character to light the endless pits and spikes.

The feelings of confusion, claustrophobia and annoyance run high and it does little to assuage these negative feelings as the character can do little against the obstacles before him. On paper it is clear this was trying to be a throwback to '90s games, the problem is, there was a multitude of those that were actually very good that this forgot to emulate, as SNES games like Mickey Mouse: The Magical Quest and Skyblazer absolutely blow this away. As a final blow of adding insult to injury, this is not even wrapped up in a finished narrative, rather an abrupt end comes, trying to solicit the player to buy the future next episode.

Screenshot for Pankapu on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Pankapu leaves much to be desired in nearly every aspect, with the sole exception being its artwork. The story hints at something greater to never deliver, the music is impossibly repetitive and grating, and by far its biggest sin is that the platforming is atrocious. The difficulty and frustration is so ever-present that it annihilates any chance of it being any fun, and the slow controls only serve to put the final mark on a disastrous title.

Developer

Plug In Digital

Publisher

Plug In Digital

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

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 Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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