Written By Jbozo

​Penarium is the debut game by Netherlands based indie studio ‘Self Made Miracle’ and published by Team 17. In this sadistic circus extravaganza you take on the role of poor little Willy, a chubby farmers son who is tricked into joining a barbaric circus and forced to perform for the crowds amusement.  Collect a barrel? Simple! But when you are being chased by rockets and bothered by bees, when the floors have saw blades in them and you have to dodge automatic machine gun fire? That simple little task becomes a lot more bloody good fun! (Literally).
​There are moments when you will swear your controller or keyboard is broken, that you will rage and want to give up in frustration. Penarium is a challenging game, but it never gives you more than you can really handle, just two out of approximately twenty challenges at a time to disorient, baffle  and break your concentration. Every challenge operates in its own way and remembering how they each behave is vital in order to survive. In my opinion the difficulty is both the best and worst parts about this game; the frantic fun feeling is occasionally broken by challenge combinations that leave your character completely safe and gives the player a respite from the otherwise unrelenting battle for your life.

Penarium is a 2d arena arcade game for PC and Xbox. A tablet/IOS version is planned which makes sense considering the old school control style; just two actions, move and double/jump.  This isn’t the only thing that reminds me of my childhood; the visually impressive blood soaked 16 bit art style and creepy circus music work well together and take us back to our childhood console games where we were always one hit away from death and this game is no different.

​One of the first things any gamer learns is to move and collect items; but how could something so simple prove so entertaining? Like the 1983 Arcade and NES classic Mario Bros, players can jump from one side of the screen to the other, but instead of enemies and coins Willy’s task is to break barrels, pop balloons and stand on buttons all in the name of survival and glory.

​In addition to the 30 mission campaign mode; Penarium features multiplayer both co-op and versus, as well an endurance style arcade mode. Collecting coins in the endurance mode allows the player to buy cards which act as power ups to help him survive longer and collect more coins. From coin collecting magnetism, to shields and speed these cards can help give you an edge in arcade mode.
Having grown up with same/split screen multiplayer games there was no greater joy than seeing the look on my siblings faces when they died, and being a huge fan of split screen I can now watch them die a gruesome death again. I wasn’t disappointed to find multiplayer included in this title, however where was the online versus mode I envisioned when I heard multiplayer? This fun and frantic game is more replayable with friends and an online feature would have been a great addition!
Gameplay & Controls
The simple control style is perfect for an arcade machine but is far too easy to double tap jump on console without realising it; losing that extra jump distance. 80/100Audio 
Recognisable voice acting in the campaign was provided by Guy Harris the ‘VoiceoverGuy’ and was excellent to hear but while the music fits the theme of the game, the tune isn’t catchy enough to have me humming along or even memorable enough to recall. 60/100

This kind of graphic style is very popular at the moment and, as far as nostalgia goes the 16bit graphics provide a great visual style for this game, it looks and feels great to play 80/100

Story & Immersion
While the campaign mode was fun and its story humorous it was a little short. 75/100

Having opened up all three arenas for arcade mode, I do feel like playing it is just a test of patience. I really enjoyed the game but apart from collecting all the cards I feel like there is little to do after the main story is finished. 80/100

Final score  75/100
Although it has its flaws, Penarium is a great first game from Self Made Miracle, definitely one of the best indie titles out, and hopefully a taste of things to come

See you in the Penarium…If you dare.

Developer: Self Made Miracle
Publisher: Team 17
Release Date: 22nd September 2015
Genre: 2d Indie, Action
Platform: Pc, Xbox One, PS4

Watch The Trailer Here