Penny's Big Breakaway wallpaper

Break away from bland and boring platformers in our Penny’s Big Breakaway preview!

Penny’s Big Breakaway is the latest title from Evening Star, the creatives known for their work on Sonic Mania. It’s a great chance for them to launch their original IP with initial trailers and preview content looks fantastic, but how is it in practice? This preview is based on a beta graciously given to us by the developers – let’s launch right in!

Penny’s Big Breakaway Preview – Story

Welcome to the world of Macaroon! Join Penny as she heads out to impress the Emperor at the Gala! As she heads on her way she comes into contact with a mysterious item that brings her Yo-yo to life. This happens in the first level, which also tutorialises the gameplay to a degree letting players get a feel for the unique movement mechanics.

Screenshot of Penny arriving in fron of the Emperor

Penny arrives at the Gala!

At the end of this level, the game sets the scene fully with a cool comic-style cutscene where Penny does her act, impressing the audience, only for things to go horribly wrong, making her the most wanted criminal in town. Thus begins her breakaway!

The premise is a lot of fun and brings to mind the motivations given to players in games such as Kirby and Sonic where the story is a lighter touch but provides a clear reason for the gameplay and events during the title.

Penny’s Big Breakaway Preview – Gameplay

This game takes the form of a retro-ish styled 3D platformer. It has a real sense of momentum in almost every aspect of the movement control with some truly fun and unique uses of Penny’s recently brought-to-life Yo-yo. From swinging with the right stick to charging and dashing like a Sonic spin-dash Penny and Yo-yo’s moveset feels fantastic, on a controller.

As mentioned earlier, over the course of the first few levels, tutorial pop-ups will explain aspects of the controls and power-ups to the players as they progress, accompanied by nice screenshots and artwork, but players who are comfortable or experimental can bypass most of these and enjoy working out the mechanics on their own.

Screenshot showing how the player can spin the right stick to raise or lower a screw in-game

Spinning the right analogue stick can raise or lower these screws!

The actual controls are mapped well to a controller, having access to analogue control is important to the game feel. However, the keyboard exhibits a few issues. As usual, mapping the controls for a 3d game can often feel awkward and this title is no exception. There was also a bug in this pre-release build that meant for controller play the frame rate of the game needs to be set to 60.

Levels have side content and challenges which are optional and completing them contributes to the score earned for completing the level. This system is fun and adds a little bit of depth to the world and gives those who have mastered the movement a chance to use their skills, usually in a timed challenge. Failure takes many forms in this adventure with both falling off the level and being captured draining the life points of anyone who can’t find the momentum or precision needed in various scenarios. Capture gameovers are also accompanied by a short scene of Penny being taken away by the penguin guards which offers a nice little edge of tangibility.

Beating a level is done by jumping onto the level endpoint and it incentivises landing in the centre as it offers the best chance to earn extra points by busking at the end. Busking is just a short quicktime sequence that if completed plays out an animation and earns points. It all feels so involving and fun to do that it’s clear the final version of this title will be an absolute gem.

Penny’s Big Breakaway Preview – Visuals

This is one slick-looking title. It has charm pouring out of every single thing. With its angular characters and interesting level design, there is a lot to take in. Once adjusted to the visual style there is a lot to love! Some of the designs harken to almost Jester or Circus-style outfits, each area also has a fair few unique NPC designs each themed based on what they’re doing and where they are. Each world also has unique themes and these are partnered with their own gameplay and visual elements making each feel distinct and memorable.

Screenshot of Penny rolling on her Yo-yo through a flock of flying pidgeons from Penny's Big Breakaway preview

All the animation work oozes character.

Animation work does a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of making gameplay feel smooth with ample stretching and skewing during fast movement. This emphasises certain actions and gives the characters more, well, character. Environments are also home to a lot of animation that keeps the screen lively.

Penny’s Big Breakaway Preview – Sound

Sublime. The soundtrack is absolutely excellent, primarily penned by Tee Lopes, it offers an evocative and fun soundscape over the levels we have played. Just listen to the first level theme, hosted on the Evening Star YouTube channel:

This is such a bop and fits well with the gameplay and the unfolding of Penny’s adventure. The instrumentation also deserves praise as it often feels like a throwback and a modern tune at the same time!

During gameplay, the soundscape of the level is great too with perfectly punchy sound effects offering great feedback to player action. Cutscenes are mostly carried out by sound effects work as there is no spoken dialogue in the title, but there is a lot of visual and audio comedy.

Penny’s Big Breakaway Preview – Final Thoughts

Penny’s Big Breakaway is looking like a breakaway hit, everything feels very well judged. Aside from a couple of technical hitches typical to early access, the groundwork is an incredibly fun and solid time.

Penny bowing at the level complete screen from Penny's Big Breakaway preview

This game is feeling like a winner!

The thematics at play and the momentum paired with lively stages means that fans of 3D platformers have no reason to turn this down in the slightest. Better get it wishlisted on your platform of choice!

A preview code was kindly provided by the publisher for the purpose of our Penny’s Big Breakaway preview. Be sure to keep an eye out for the full review closer to launch, and join us over on the Qualbert Discord to chat more about the game!

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