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Penny's Big Breakaway preview: up and down like a yo-yo

Dan Lipscombe

Published 
| Last updated 

Penny's Big Breakaway preview: up and down like a yo-yo

Featured Image Credit: Evening Star

I’d been quietly excited for Penny’s Big Breakaway since seeing a trailer towards the latter end of 2023. The idea of a character able to swing, jump and perform tricks with an oversized yo-yo had just enough bonkers for me, plus it combined what looked like terrific platforming with an over-the-top colourful world.

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There’s something about the design that harkened back to some of SEGA’s highlights in their Dreamcast era. Penny’s Big Breakaway’s visuals seem to somehow take me back to NiGHTS into Dreams, while her movement abilities transport me to the early levels of Sonic Adventure.

Penny's Big Breakaway seems to be inspired by Sonic the Hedgehog.

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It’s all in Penny’s movement; being able to ride the yo-yo, even spinning it up at the start to zoom off the way Sonic does. The comparison ends there, but it’s enough to fool your brain into thinking you’re playing a fast-paced 3D platformer when really the game sometimes struggles to go with the flow.

Let me get two issues out of the way. Firstly, on the subject of going fast, the footage of Penny’s Big Breakaway shows a lot of fast-paced movement - linking together air dashes, double jumps, and unique movements using the yo-yo. However, in practice there are too many moments where momentum just stops short, usually leaving Penny to be attacked or fall out of the level.

The dash move, for example, requires you to hold down a shoulder button to hop onto the yo-yo and ride it like a bike, but the speed is variable, sometimes blasting you forwards and other times just trundling along slowly. You can get used to it, but it feels awful when you’re putting together a combo of tricks and movement and then grind to a halt.

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Penny
Penny

The second issue, and this one is harder to work around, is the camera. It automatically pans around Penny and it can hinder movement a bit. When playing on the controller, movement is on the left stick as normal, however, the right stick throws out the yo-yo in the direction you push. This means the camera has to be automatic, but there were too many times when I missed a platform or couldn’t see a group of enemies because the camera pulled in too tightly or held a bad angle.

These problems are, in the grander scheme of things, minimal. Because away from those moments, this is shaping up to be a brilliant experience. The concept is giving ‘Saturday morning cartoon’ vibes with characters who are bold, a little bit goofy, and verge on caricatures of gaming tropes from years past. It has enough preposterous nonsense to be genuinely funny in places, like the first boss which is a huge ball of penguins acting out an Indiana Jones style chase. Yes, penguins.

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Penny
Penny

Penny finds herself in trouble with the king and he has sent out squads of penguins to hunt her down and catch her. Luckily, Penny has a sentient yo-yo she uses as a multitool to attack and move. The yo-yo allows her to attack in any direction, while also zipping through the air, spinning on poles to get larger jumps, or even have it hover in air as she swings forward. On top of this, it can also attach to items like a hammer which is then used to destroy walls or platforms.

All of these abilities come together to tackle the landscape and move forward through checkpoints, find hidden items, and complete mini-quests for random NPCs. NPC quests are small tasks like carrying an alarm clock to a sleepy worker, or collecting pieces of cake to deliver to the wife of an NPC and you’re rewarded with collectibles or currency which can be spent on power-ups like extra health or lifesavers that pick you up if you fall off the course.

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There’s plenty to discover beyond the story mode of tackling quests and fighting bosses; a time trial mode will challenge your speedrunning skills, while star planets turn up the difficulty to 11. It’s clear to see the inspirations for the game in Mario and Sonic, but it also does enough to distance itself and become something new. When everything flows, the game is a stand out and rewards players with a huge hit of dopamine as the level ends. Penny’s Big Breakaway is filled with small details and moments that build up to create a panorama of delight.

Topics: Preview, Steam, PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch

Dan Lipscombe
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