Developer: Taco Graveyard
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5, iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Taco Graveyard knows names. Their new game Penumbear has players controlling a shadowy bear, as the portmanteau would suggest, through mysterious puzzle-platforming environments.This bear doesn’t quite know where he is or what’s going on, but he has one ability: the power to remotely turn on and off light switches, which is one of the more practical superpowers out there, although with remote home automation, it can be had. But see, for Penumbear, it’s especially useful, as he has the ability to walk on light. He can’t pass through dark to light, but he can use that to his advantage, strategically disabling and enabling lamps to find the keys in each level and moving on to the next one, and hopefully closer to the truth about himself.

The game is a puzzle-platformer, but it doesn’t forget about the ‘platformer’ part of the game, as it’s definitely got plenty of actual challenging jump sequences to take on. The lighting effects are fairly impressive as well, with clever uses of objects hidden in shadows that can help the player, or hinder them. The game also pulls out a lot of variety in its levels, with some that are more linear in scope, and others that are mini-explorations.

Penumbear also comes with a boatload of content: 100 levels will last a long time in this game, particularly as the early levels are not easy at all. This game will take plenty of time to beat and to see everything. There’s also the “bonus bears” to collect, which are hidden throughout the levels. They encourage exploration and discovery, which is a fantastic thing, because the game is perfectly set up for clever secrets. However, it’s rather annoying that any collected bonus bears are lost when dying and returning to a checkpoint. I collected the bonus bear, I should be able to keep it instead of having to constantly backtrack.

Penumbear may be made of shadows, but the sounds that he makes, and his animations make him surprisingly adorable. He controls fairly well too, with the ability to compensate for some close jumps. I felt like it was possible to maneuver him through tight spots effectively. Activating the four buttons for different switches could be annoying because on iPhone in particular they’re clumped so close together. Also, the settings boast of iCloud support, but it did not seem to work at launch. What a shame. The game also supports only one landscape orientation with the home button on the right, and on the iPhone 5 and iPad 2, that makes it very uncomfortable to play with headphones plugged in.

Penumbear is a clever puzzle-platformer that definitely grew on me as it went along. It’s got a ton of content for a cheap price, and it takes great advantage of its concept. Snuggle up with Penumbear.

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