Penny's Big Breakaway wallpaper
March 5, 2024

The 3D platformer is a beloved genre still going strong 3 decades later. Does this game join the ranks of the greats? Find out in our Penny’s Big Breakaway review!

It’s wild how many genres have seen a resurgence in recent years bolstered by nostalgia value. Whether it’s the boomer shooter like DUSK or a 3D platformer like Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, these games of yore are breathing new life thanks to modern technology and inspired developers.

One such dev is Evening Star, who had the honor of creating Sonic Mania, regarded as one of Sonic’s best games in decades. Now, Evening Star has their time to shine with Penny’s Big Breakaway, an original IP that shifts their 2D prowess into the third dimension.

Penny's Big Breakaway review smashing through a wall

Aflush with colors and stylized characters, Penny’s Big Breakaway is an instant win in the presentation department.

In our preview of Penny’s Big Breakaway, we came away impressed with the visuals and gameplay, and hoped that the Early Access technical hitches could be dealt with ahead of release. Now that the 1.0 release is ready for the world, we’ll be taking a closer look at any bumps in the road and commenting on the final product.

Private Division has a certain mark of quality in publishing hits like The Outer Worlds and OlliOlli World, so we’re hoping that Penny’s Big Breakaway can maintain that high level of fun and polish. Let’s bounce in and find out!

Penny’s Big Breakaway Review – Story

Not particularly one of the most important aspects, but still an aspect nonetheless, a 3D Platformer needs some semblance of story to drive the player to want to succeed. In Penny’s Big Breakaway, you take on Penny who has control of Yo-Yo, exhibiting some neat tricks in the hopes of impressing Emperor Eddie.

While initially enthused with Penny’s display, an overeager Yo-Yo defiles the Emperor, who sentences Penny to ten thousand years in jail. An army of penguins pursue Penny in each level to capture the fleeting star.

Penny's Big Breakaway review penguins

Emperor Eddie’s army of penguins will speedily race towards Penny and if five of them latch on, it’s game over!

Penny’s Big Breakaway Review – Visuals/Performance

Where Penny’s Big Breakaway excels – and what Evening Star has certainly turned heads with – is how visually-appealing the game is. The wide array of colors utilized are all meticulously placed in unison with each other to craft what is one of the best-looking 3D Platformers in execution. Never an eyesore, it’s a setting that is a pleasure to traverse and brought more than a few smiles to my face in my playthrough.

Penny's Big Breakaway review colourful visuals

I adore that the draw distance compensates itself with fuzzy textures that are much better than jarring pop-in.

Running on a super-ultrawide monitor, Penny’s Big Breakaway easily achieved 120 frames-per-second maxed out. There’s a serious amount of polish not only in its optimization but doing so without sacrificing visual fidelity. The game is also Steam Deck verified, and I can confirm it runs on the device without a hitch. While some users are reporting bugs here and there, Evening Star is actively addressing them in hotfixes and commenting on Steam reviews to remedy any concerns, which gets serious points in my book.

Penny’s Big Breakaway Review – Gameplay

The make-or-break for a 3D Platformer lies within its gameplay. If a game like this controls weird or has a bad camera, it can hamper the entire experience. Penny’s Big Breakaway quickly tutorializes the player in its first level, and has use-cases right after the lessons to hammer it into the player’s brain.

As this is a game seriously focused on momentum, it boasts a combo meter on the right side of the screen to reward your ability to string together dashes, rolling on Yo-Yo, swings, and all other methods of traversal, breaking the combo once Penny’s feet hit the ground.

Penny's Big Breakaway review burger power-up

Powerups like the burger and the hammer make clearing out obstacles and penguins a cinch.

In a game where there are tons of moves and techniques to learn, of course, there will be a learning curve. In the case of Penny’s Big Breakaway, I didn’t feel like I had a full grasp until I hit level 1-4 and it clicked for me. Despite getting a good grasp of swinging, dashing, and rolling, there were some levels where the ramps were just a bit too steep and the platforms were just a bit too far away.

The worst offender was not being able to gauge my depth perception in a 2.5D section and failing to grab a necessary burger 3 times in a row. Level design feels like a swing and a miss more often than not due to the erratic nature of the game’s control scheme.

Penny's Big Breakaway review alarm clock

Side objectives in each level are typically a breeze and net you much-needed points towards your level score.

Make no mistake – Penny’s Big Breakaway is a very hard game, both for newcomers needing to learn how to move effectively and for experienced platform kings who want to earn the steep level score goal that each level sets. I was only able to secure one goal score, and it was in the first level; I’ve been playing platformers for more than two decades. As I was in it for the fun, this didn’t bother me, but this will surely be a lengthy grind for those who are so inclined to replay the same levels over and over again.

Penny's Big Breakaway review scrapbook postcards

Only the best Penny’s Big Breakaway players will be able to nab all the scrapbook pages earned from reaching the seriously-high level score in every single level.

More than a few times, I fell off the ledge of multiple Penny’s Big Breakaway levels and it didn’t feel like user error. Sometimes when swinging on a pole, the landing indicator won’t show up, and other times, Penny will come off a huge speed momentum and the transition into a Yo-yo roll will be drastically slower than expected.

Most of the time, though, the aforementioned learning curve will iron itself out in trial-and-error. It’s too bad that the checkpoints are few and far in-between the levels, as I lost minutes of progress several times. Nevertheless, for those ready for a challenge, Penny’s Big Breakaway will be sure to serve one.

Penny’s Big Breakaway Review – Audio

Aligned in beautiful tandem with Penny’s Big Breakaway’s mesmerizing visuals, the music is positively divine. These are some of the most immaculate, in-the-right-place level songs in a 3D Platform I’ve heard since Yooka Laylee enlisted Grant Kirkhope.

The team of Tee Lopes and Sean Bialo deserve their flowers with music I’ll actually go out of my way to listen to past playing this game. Not only is there meme potential in early-game tracks, later songs like “Puppet Pioneer” put me at ease quicker than lo-fi beats to study to. Truly amazing tuneage in this game.

Penny’s Big Breakaway Review – Conclusion

While Penny’s Big Breakaway maintains everything that wowed players in Sonic Mania’s presentation, Evening Star’s transition into 3D isn’t without some stumbles and trips. A few fixes, like being able to bind the dash button away from the swing button, or some more keen playtesting to iron out certain sections that feel like work to get through, and this game could reach greatness.

Seeing the dev pay attention to early impressions and rush out hotfixes is an excellent sign, and Penny’s Big Breakaway can still serve to reach a bigger audience. Here’s hoping this gorgeous-looking platformer can tweak some things to reach “Very Positive” standing on Steam ASAP.

So, why should you play Penny’s Big Breakaway?

  • Experienced developers of Sonic Mania who have a strong grasp on what makes platformers great
  • Refreshing level of quality and polish in regards to performance for a PC release
  • Evening Star is releasing hotfixes and listening to the players.

But why shouldn’t you play Penny’s Big Breakaway?

  • Movement can mess with you and needs hours of learning to master
  • Checkpoints are far too spread out – you’ll lose a lot of progress with one mistake
  • $29.99 for a six-hour game.

A review code was kindly provided by the publisher for the purpose of our Penny’s Big Breakaway review. Can’t get enough platformers? Jump into our Super Mario Bros. Wonder review and join us over on the Qualbert Discord!

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