Penny’s Big Breakaway Review – What A Performance

Penny’s Big Breakaway Review

3D platformers are a tough sell most of the time. Retro graphics and weird controls are hard for modern gamers to swallow, you know? But Penny’s Big Breakaway cuts through all of that. The aesthetic is crisp and compelling, yet still evocative of that bygone era. Meanwhile, the controls are precise and elegant, with room for some incredible stunts. Rather than cling to past glory, this game carves out new space on familiar ground.

Speaking of familiar territory, Penny’s Big Breakaway has some clear influences at work here. The dev team cut their teeth on Sonic Mania, and it shows. But this isn’t quite a straight homage to any era of Sonic, not exactly. Instead of blasting through setpieces at max velocity, Penny gives you a set of well-worn speedrunner’s tools. Things like alternate routes, air combos, dashes, and power-ups make speed a constant companion. If you’re good enough, you can blaze through these stages with reckless abandon. If anything, the music and the visuals do more to evoke that elusive Sonic vibe. Certain songs are especially good at this trick, pulling you all the way back to the Dreamcast era.

Penny's Big Breakaway Review

A note for the PC players – Penny’s adventure ran beautifully on my laptop with zero issues. Although I’m using a pretty beefy Intel i7-13620H processor with a 4060 GPU, optimization still plays a role. My one problem was that the framerate would run crazy high when left to do so. Best to keep it locked at 60FPS if you don’t want the whole game running on turbo mode.

All Killer No Filler

Players looking for a more lean experience will be thrilled with Penny’s Big Breakaway. Almost all of your runtime is dedicated to 3d platforming challenges and stage exploration. Things like plot and downtime have been trimmed right to the bone. Not that there isn’t a plot, of course. Penny’s world is fleshed out as much as it needs to be. You know who she is and what her goals are. Plus, NPCs sprinkle flavor text as you breeze by them. It’s all quite efficient, really.

Environmental storytelling is the main course, with cutscenes as more of an appetizer. This whole world is fixated on performance, on presentation. Everything is bright, vibrant, and soaked in colors. You’re told the ‘Show’s Over’ when you run out of lives. A disappointed audience chimes in when you fail a given task, and they cheer all your successes. The entire plot revolves around a court performance gone badly wrong. The action is kept front and center, while the story crowds around the sidelines.

Penny's Big Breakaway Review

Since the action is so prominent, the controls have to be equally precise. And they are! Or at least, the controls in Penny’s Big Breakaway are as good as they possibly can be, given the circumstances. This is a blistering 3D platformer, after all. You’re gonna overshoot and swan dive into boiling magma a couple of times. But the jumps, dashes, and yo-yo swings all feel terrific. Most importantly, the camera is locked in place. This goes a long way toward precision in your exploration. It’s so much easier to predict things like jump arcs when your perspective is this rigid.

Tough But Fair

The challenge level still escalates at a crackling pace, however. There’s an organic hard mode built into the game, which I appreciate. If you just want to survive each stage, that’s simple enough. But you can also go for every collectible and sidequest for that extra challenge. While the stages start out straightforward, this changes quickly. On the other hand, the tougher levels feel tough in a fair way. Success is just a matter of practice and patience. I got stuck plenty of times. But it never derailed my playthrough. I just needed to chip away at the problem in question for a little while.

3D platformers can still be done well, it turns out. All you have to do is focus on the action, fix the camera in place, and fine-tune the controls. Things like the narrative still need your attention, just not as much of it. I was pleasantly surprised by this game. Penny’s adventure is well-crafted, colorful, and tons of fun. The challenge level gets pretty high, sure. And the controls are still built for speed. But this is all part of the package. If you’re looking for a new 3D platformer, Penny’s Big Breakaway should be at the top of your list.

***A Steam key was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Colorful level design
  • Tight controls
  • Excellent pacing

The Bad

  • Gets tough and stays that way
  • Built for speed over precision