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You can play Penarium multi-player or solo. This review is based on solo play.

There are two main types of game, the ARCADE version where you just jump in and continually try to improve your score and get better as the game progresses, or the CAMPAIGN version where your character is under the ever-watchful, ever-pushing, evil-eye of the Ringmaster.

My suggestion is that you get used to the action by playing the Arcade version for a while until you are comfortable with the controls and then take on the Campaign. The Campaign is no joyride. It is fraught with difficulties that only get tougher as you get further into the game. The Ringmaster is a real nasty piece of work. He is relentless in his quest to give the paying customers death defying (not always defying) acts and stunts, and it is Willy the Kid, your character, that has to perform them. 


Penarium is a totally insane, mad-crazy game of survival. The whole idea is not to succeed per se but to survive for as long as you can - every second counts, literally. You are not only up against the clock for you also have to contend with the insane evilness of the sadistic Ringmaster, but also the baying of the crowd - the audience who are waiting for blood, your blood - and the bombs, bullets, ice-storms and goodness knows what else that rain down on you as you chase across, up and down, the various platforms to the will and whim of your (Ring)master.  The Willy of the game is a young lad, the son of a farmer, who wishes more to be able to join the circus than to till the fields, feed the animals and gather the crops on the farm.

He cannot believe his luck when one day a circus rolls into town. Besotted by the brilliance of the colourful wagons, the smell of the greasepaint, the glamour of the circus life, Willy approaches the show and is over the moon when he is invited into one of the circus wagons. As soon as he is in though the bars clang down and shut tight and Willy is whisked away, far from his loving family, to be put on show in front of the high paying clients drawn to the sadistic circus.

To begin with the Ringmaster requires that Willy perform perfunctuory tasks such as smashing just 5 little barrels that appear randomly on the platforms. Run, jump smash, this is too easy, and the audience let the Ringmaster know it. To appease them he adds a little spice and ups the ante to 10 Barrels, then 15 Barrels and so on, each time the deadly hazards awaiting Willy are getting faster, more powerful, and far harder to dodge. If Willy falls off the Platforms into the base area he is drowned in a sea of acid, otherwise he is simply shot or blown to pieces; not particularly nice either way.

Player dexterity and hand-eye co-ordination now take over control of Willy as each movement brings forth another deadly shower of death, keeping moving is essential but which way you move and whether you jump depends on the player's ability to operate the keyboard - remember that I am playing a STEAM account version on my PC.

This is a challenge of the highest order. It isn't about pretty or attractive, it won't win awards for either of them, in fact aesthetically it is a blow-back to when PC games came on casette tapes. Graphically it isn't appealing. Musically and sounds, also non-appealing. Adrenaline buzz, playability, and addictive qualities, all positive; the game has the X-Factor that is needed to make players want to return even if their last session was poor or their little Willy character died. The game pulls you in and then warms you up before spitting you back onto the sidewalk.

Every time you play you are presented with your personal best score and all you have to do to progress is to stay alive. There is no holding on while the time ticks down. There is no holding-off area where you can sit and rest; the game just continues virtually non-stop, just enough time to get Willy back in his cage before the next challenge begins.

If you like the pressure of playing against the clock then this is a game you will not want to pass on.


Minimum System Requirements
OS: Windows Vista
Processor: Dual Core CPU 2.4 gHz
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4000, Nvidia GeForce 8000, ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series
Hard Drive: 300 MB available space
Sound Card:

Windows Compatible Card 

Buying Penarium:   PlayStation 4 £7.39 Buy from PlayStation Store  PS4     Steam £6.99 Buy from Steam     STEAM   Xbox One £7.19 Buy from Xbox Games Store   ONE

Key Features:    Single Player Arcade Mode   30 Single Player Challenges   Local 2-player Co-op and Versus Modes!   3 different maps to compete on

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015