Developer: Bulkypix
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★½☆☆
User Interface Rating: ★★½☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★½☆☆☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆

At first glance, everything looks great. The artwork (particularly the backgrounds) is pulled off very well. Upon seeing the screenshots, one with an appreciation for the art style in Penombre will likely become excited about trying it out. Unfortunately though, it’s all downhill from there.

IMG_0365Players control a little witch called Umbra, whose wish is get home safely as surrounding creatures have turned against her. Players can tap to cause a jump, or double-tap for a double-jump. In between dodging obstacles and evil creatures, they can also pick up spells (or power-ups) and souls that can be used for upgrades. It’s an endless side-scrolling runner, but if players make it past a certain point they will effectively unlock access to a new kingdom. When an obstacle is hit, Umbra’s health visually depletes as a shadow creeps in closer and closer.

That all sounds good but, unfortunately, Penombre‘s gameplay mechanics thoroughly ruin the whole experience and make playing it a real exercise in frustration. The first issue is with the animation. While there’s no problem with the frame rate itself, each animation has too few frames to look anywhere near smooth. I tap jump and the character switches to a different pose (in a single frame). The poses themselves are rigid and feel robotic. The jump (which is the only action players can make) feels too slow and unnatural. The sound effects are terrible and just don’t match the atmosphere of the game. Background music is ok, but users can’t switch off the sound effects without turning off the music too.

IMG_0370In-app purchases are not available to speed up access to more souls, but the rate at which players find them in the game is enough to save up for upgrades without taking too long. Some of the spells (like turning into a werewolf) are nice, but poor execution makes them almost impossible to enjoy (even slightly).

Good artwork and a bad execution unfortunately don’t meet somewhere in the middle to form a decent game. Irritating sound effects, rough animations, and rigid, unnatural character movements define very rough gameplay that no less than ruins an otherwise good idea.


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