Format reviewed: MSX I/II
Submitted by: Mat Corne
First of all I have to say I usually wouldn’t upload a title screen graphic to represent the game I’m reviewing, but this game has the single most sorrowful title screen I have ever seen, showing the game’s protagonist Pentarou gazing out across the ocean, contemplating the task ahead of him. When you see this upon loading the game and accompanied by some appropriately minimalist music, it almost induces tears! Fortunately the game itself is a little less sombre, as you control your penguin hero as he races across the world to try and save his girl.
This is Konami’s MSX-only sequel to Antarctic Adventure, which was released on the NES, MSX and also in the arcade. Like its predecessor each level is effectively a racing game, following Pentarou from behind in the pseudo 3D style that the MSX does very well. Each level has a time limit in which you must reach the end of the stage whilst collecting fish and avoiding obstacles and enemies. Expanding on the original game (which was unsurprisingly based entirely in the Antarctic) the levels are quite varied, from forest roads and icy tundra to caves, rivers, underwater scenarios and even a bonus stage in outer space! Additionally there are now boss battles, power-ups to collect and the possibility of dropping into underground ‘shops’ where you can exchange fish for weapons and other items, or even gamble them in a fruit machine mini-game. This mixture of racing, collect em up, shooting and even some basic RPG elements is quite a unique combination but it works very well.
Technically one of the most impressive and polished MSX games, Penguin Adventure looks fantastic, sounds good and offers great playability with a challenging but fair difficulty curve. Pentarou went on to star in Yume Penguin Monogatari on the Famicom and also featured in several Parodius games, but in my view Penguin Adventure is his finest hour.