The Next Penelope (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Shane Jury 19.03.2018

Review for The Next Penelope on Nintendo Switch

Although, at present, the Nintendo Switch is an independent developer's dream to work on, what with its highly engaged purchasing audience and marketplace free of many big third party names, there was a time where the games industry was difficult to break into for a small unit of creators. It was likely the popularisation of downloadable gaming that began to knock down this wall, proving to be a means of cheaper distribution for less financial risk, and a means of targeting genres and gameplay styles that were less represented. With more efficient developmental tools building over time, it has now reached the point where one talented individual can bring their game to one of the big console brands quite easily. The Next Penelope is such an example; made by one man, Aurelien Regard, and ported over to Switch by Seaven Studio, is it a worthy purchase option?

The Next Penelope follows a loose interpretation of Greek legend, telling the tale of Penelope as she searches the stars for the whereabouts of her husband, Odysseus, fending off unwanted suitors and aggressors along the way. The worlds she can explore, shown from a top-down map, range from simple to extremely difficult, and each holds unique levels and enemies, weapons and objectives. This simple narrative is told very engagingly via clean-cut portrait cut-scenes and is kept brief as to not impede the gameplay, of which is displayed in beautifully clear-cut neon visuals and backed by an energetic and memorable techno beat.

Screenshot for The Next Penelope on Nintendo Switch

Playing The Next Penelope is like experiencing a mish-mash of Micro Machines and F-zero, mainly due to the racing element and its top-down perspective, but also because of the Life Meter that drains when boosting or colliding with obstacles on the track. Adding in multiple weapon options and numerous levels of free-roaming boss fights would ordinarily make for a jumbled mess of ideas in one title, but it is impressive how cohesive The Next Penelope actually is.

Single-player is the focus, and this takes place via a large Galaxy Map, from which the titular heroine can select available planets and areas. The game eases players into its mechanics, using a difficulty rating for each group of missions and introducing a new weapon or stage gimmick for each. All starting levels generally commence with a brief cut-scene outlining the current events, and a setup of how the subsequent stages will play.

Screenshot for The Next Penelope on Nintendo Switch

The racing stages are the most frequent, and require crossing the finishing line first, be it after a number of laps or a lengthy single course. This is where the F-Zero comparisons are most apt, as the Life Meter in the corner of the screen dictates Weapon and Craft energy, and balancing this, along with learning the course layout and making full use of given tools to outrace foes, becomes very engaging. Each weapon or function is mapped to a different button for quick and instant access, and ranges from a simple Speed Boost and quick Teleportation jump, to Harpoon cables that clear obstacles and a Black Crystal that absorbs enemy fire.

Movement is automatic, leaving primary focus to navigation and keeping the Life Meter above zero, done so by defeating enemies, and moving over green circular orbs placed in the levels. HD Rumble helps add to this immersion by reacting differently to each weapon type and level collisions.

Screenshot for The Next Penelope on Nintendo Switch

From start to finish, the main story mode of The Next Penelope can be beaten quickly, but the vast longevity lies in repeat play and general difficulty later on. Penelope's ship can be upgraded with Experience Points gained from completing and replaying missions; adding new parameters like increased speed or handling changes that can make a big difference. Later in the game, Time Trial levels open up that provide a strong challenge, although sadly lack online leaderboard functionality for boosted longevity.

A two- to four-player mode is also available, and contains a startling amount of depth for what would appear to simply mimic Micro Machines on the surface. The premise is very similar, what with multiple racers on a selected track seeking to pull ahead of the others and leave them off-screen for the points win. Two things set this interpretation apart, though; weapons and track design. The former is restricted to a pre-race selection of only one of Penelope's Story Armoury, and gives strategic merit in making the best choice for a given track. The latter is built with many twists and dynamic elements in play, ensuring two races are rarely the same. Although the single participant part of The Next Penelope is undoubtedly the central component, this side mode is still a considerable addition, and helps round off what ends up as a tightly contained, if brief, package.

Screenshot for The Next Penelope on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

A blend of gameplay inspirations and styles, melded into one solid experience, the voyage of The Next Penelope is kept to one straight short path, but has notable value in revisits and repeat play. A shockingly robust, if also rather brief, multiplayer mode, and a gorgeous visual style round off a package that evokes the classic gameplay of F-Zero and Micro Machines, yet somehow makes the experience its own. Those looking for a lengthy narrative may be disappointed, but the Time Trial features and quick burst gameplay will keep many coming back for more.

Developer

Aurelien Regard

Publisher

Plug In Digital

Genre

Driving

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

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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