Penumbear, an intriguing puzzle platformer developed by Taco Graveyard and published by Bulkypix, is now available from the app store. Featuring levels in the triple digits, creative puzzles, and a great light-darkness mechanic that dictates where you can and cannot go, Penumbear makes for a compelling offering.
- Appealing aesthetic where colored lights punctuate the grayscale dungeons
- Soundtrack is haunting, yet fitting
- Controls are easy to use, though the double-tap to run mechanic can be a little clunky
- Creative puzzles and tons of hidden surprises
- GameCenter achievements to earn
- Difficulty may be too challenging for some gamers
- Hint screens annoyingly pop up at level beginning on each restart
The main character is a bear who, in addition to traversing each level’s obstacles, can walk upon the border between darkness and light. Certain areas are colorfully lit, while others are plunged into darkness. The occasional light switches can be activated by the bear’s firefly sidekick, allowing you to illuminate different sections of the map to walk upon. Conversely, there will be times that you’ll need to turn off the lights to pass through areas blocked off by a light’s border. Lights may even need to be turned on and off in a specific order to pass through some particularly insidious sections of the game. While some maps can feel fairly wide and expansive, others are quite small, though these often provide the most head-scratching puzzles due to their claustrophobic nature and staring-you-in-the-face solutions. Exit doors typically require unlocking by finding blue fireflies that act as keys, as well as checkpoints. Exploring the various nooks and unassuming locales in each level will afford you the opportunity to discover and collect a number of hidden teddy bears. A hidden bear counter in the upper left corner indicates how many there are in a level and how many you have found. Darkness obscures dangerous objects that can quickly end your run, so a bit of caution while advancing is recommended. Boss fights also add a level of difficulty to your journey. You will meet your untimely death again and again, sending you back to the level’s starting point or the most recently collected “key” firefly. Additionally, death forces you to relinquish any hidden bears you may have collected, which is a bit annoying.
Graphically, Penumbear has a pleasing aesthetic. The multicolored lights cut through the grayscale darkness and play nicely against the cold stone edifices. Your bear is little more than a white outline, but you still feel for him when he plunges to his death on a spike bed or meets his demise at the hands of a patrolling critter. The soundtrack is haunting, yet it fits well with your somewhat bleak future prospects. You have left/right buttons for movement, as well as a large jump button and 4 smaller buttons that activate each of the 4 colored lights when you are within range to do so. You have the ability to double-jump by tapping the jump button while airborne, and running is activated by double-tapping a direction arrow. The controls felt pretty tight and we really enjoyed the feel of maneuvering the bear. Replay value is good, as you can replay levels to search for missing bears. There are also a number of GameCenter achievements to earn along the way. A universal app for $1.99, Penumbear is an enjoyable 4-Dimple challenge.