Anybody remember a little Windows Phone 7 shoot-em-up called Corona? Even for an older game, Corona continues to impress with its beautiful anime-style artwork and intense bullet hell shooting action. I thought Finnish developer Kajak Games had stepped away from Windows Phone development after completing Corona, depriving us of their high quality indie games.
As it turns out, Kajak has quietly released quite a few games lately. Today I checked out the studio’s Hopping Penguin, a platformer/endless runner starring a vampire bat – I mean penguin. Mundane title aside, Hopping Penguin offers some very good artwork and lots of platforming goodness in a free to play package. Check out our impressions and video after the break.
Stopping the ice cream thieves
Hopping Penguin opens with a cute little introduction sequence in which our nameless penguin inventor has created an ice cream machine – pretty much the best thing ever, if you ask me. He tucks the machine into bed for some reason and goes to sleep in the opposite bed, much like a 1950s sitcom. A suspicious bear lurks in the shadows…
When the penguin awakes, his machine is gone. Oh noes! But the thief must have switched it on by accident, because he left a trail of popsicles and other frozen treats behind him. Mr. Popper does what any true-blooded penguin would do and sets out to take his machine back… With extreme prejudice.
Runnin’ and jumpin’
Kajak’s latest game plays a lot like Rayman Fiesta Run, one of my favorite Windows Phone games. Your little penguin dude automatically runs forward at all times. Tapping anywhere on the screen will make him jump. He can also slide against walls and jump off of them, also like Rayman. A certain power up gives Mumble the ability to double jump; I wish he had the ability all the time since it’s a lot of fun to use.
Unlike Rayman, the penguin doesn’t seem to have a punching move. When he comes across enemies like walruses and carpenters (actually just walruses), Pengie deals with them the old fashioned way: by jumping on their heads. You have to stick with what works!
PenPen gets three lives per level, and he can even restart from checkpoint flags that he comes across. The goal in each level is to collect as much ice cream as possible and safely reach the hot air balloon at the end. You’ll receive a star rating based on how many popsicles and such you collected.
Hopping Penguin offers four distinct worlds with eight levels each. Penguin doesn’t have to stay in his snowy habitat; he also gets to visit the jungle, a desert, and a castle. Every world includes a hidden level that only unlocks when you find enough keys scattered throughout the normal levels.
Ads and In-App Purchases
Although Hopping Penguin is free, it does display ads at the bottom of the screen during all non-gameplay portions (even the intro). These ads aren’t so bad in theory. But on the title screen the ad is actually layered over the “Play” button, which doesn’t look good. And on my Lumia 1520, the title screen has a weird graphical glitch in which the main artwork sort of repeats unevenly down at the bottom. See the problem in our hands-on video below.
If you don’t like the ads, a simple purchase of 1,000 ice creams for 99 cents or 2,000 for $1.49 will disable them. Ice creams (which you’ll collect during levels, remember) can be spent to unlock new characters like a female penguin and a walking egg. Considering that IAPs are completely optional and don’t affect the gameplay in any way, they provide a good way for dedicated players to support the developer.
One hopping penguin game
It’s easy to make an endless runner that never actually ends, such as the Temple Run series and its many clones. Designing actual levels and providing concrete goals for players takes a lot more work. Hopping Penguin shows a lot of effort, with bright and cheerful artwork, well-designed levels, and intuitive controls.
The graphical glitches that mar the bottom of the screen at times need to go, though. And the backgrounds have a little parallax scrolling, but they really would benefit from at least one additional layer. Still, other than those few imperfections this is a standout Windows Phone-exclusive platformer. And it has sound effects (unlike Corona)!
- Hopping Penguin – Windows Phone 8 – 9 MB – Free – Store Link
Thanks to Davide Bonaccorso for the tip!