Penumbear stars a friendly little koala bear who is locked away deep within a castle when a purple firefly appears out of the darkness and awakens the beast. After spending far too long in the darkness, the bear stands up and begins making his way through the hundred of floors to the cursed castle and to the outside world once again. We're unsure if Taco Graveyard was going for a deeper, symbolic message with their narrative, but the tale of Penumbear can definitely be associated with anyone in their personal life where a great encumbrance is holding you back and a great trial must be overcome in order to persevere and continue on with your life as normal once again. Penumbear is a game that isn't all about telling a story, but it says a lot without using any words.
Penumbear can easily be described as a puzzle platformer, but it doesn't tell the whole story for the game. You'll be accompanied by a firefly and can find additional fireflies and hidden away bear friends along the way as well. Fireflies can light up lanterns scattered around the castle in various colors that work against the darkness of the castle to produce floors for you to walk across or to double jump between without falling to your death. It's a lot of fun to figure out the different puzzles of the game, and you'll encounter many bosses throughout the game as well that offer up a different challenge as you experiment to find certain ways to defeat them. Penumbear isn't an overly difficult game, but it does provide challenging and rewarding gameplay that only becomes annoying on certain stages where dying occurs too easily. This wouldn't be so terrible if you weren't penalized for dying and forced to restart from the beginning of the stage each time, but as it is, Penumbear is a fun game that produces only a few gripes.
One of the first things that will inspire players to try out Penumbear will be the game's unique art style. The game relies heavily on the existence of light and darkness in the castle levels, and a dark aesthetic with excellent lighting elements make the game look great. The game also controls good, and you'll rarely die and not blame it on your own mistakes. There is definitely a learning curve to figuring out some puzzle elements that will be introduced in the early parts of the game, but over the long stretch of levels you'll master techniques that will serve you well throughout the game and save you a lot of headaches. If you've enjoyed recent puzzle platformers such as Limbo and Braid, you'll love Penumbear even if it's not quite as polished, and you won't find a better game for the price. Download a copy of Penumbear and save a koala bear from the darkness. They're an endangered species you know?
Penumbear is scheduled to release for iOS on February 28, 2013 and can be purchased for $1.99. For more information on the game, check out the official Penumbear website.
Developer: Taco Graveyard
Available exclusively for iOS (reviewed)
Release Date: February 28, 2013