The Next Penelope Review


I’ve been using Construct 2 to build my own game (check out Caution! Platforming Ahead here), so I’ve always held a curiosity for other Construct 2 games. The Next Penelope was the first big Construct 2 game that I can remember learning about, but just never had a chance to play it. That is, until I picked it up for less than three bucks on the Nintendo eShop. So, after spending some time with The Next Penelope, I’d like to discuss its joys and cons.

Overhead Racers Are A Lot of Fun to Play

The Next Penelope follows Penelope on her quest through a futuristic story based around Greek mythology. While I didn’t particularly care for the story itself, I thoroughly enjoyed the gameplay here. For the majority of the game, you’ll be controlling your ship in an overhead style that is reminiscent of classic retro racers such as Micro Machines. Your acceleration is automatic, so you’ll focus on turning your ship as you race through each course. Having you just focus on controlling the ship actually makes for some incredibly intense moments. If you haven’t played some older overhead racers, it’s possible you may struggle with the controls. Hell, even if you have played overhead racers before you may still struggle with the controls.

The gameplay isn’t always as simple as finishing in 1st place, because there are a variety of ways that the developer mixes it up. There are six areas in the game, each containing 3 levels. Each area follows a similar structure; level one introduces you to a new weapon and how to use it, level two puts you in a race against bandits, while level three concludes with a boss fight. Beat the boss of that area and you can take that area’s weapon into other areas.


Every weapon serves a purpose and must be utilized properly to beat the game. Each one adds something new to the game whether it be a simple boost that lets you blast through rocks, or a teleport move that lets you skip entire sections of a track. You have to be careful as you will exert energy when you use these weapons, and if your energy is fully depleted, then you will be forced to retire; you can regain energy F-Zero style by driving over certain zones. Regardless, I do like the addition of weapons to the overhead racer, in fact, it reminds me of an old DOS game I used to play called Death Rally. Beat all six bosses and then you can fight the final boss, which happens to turn the game into a horizontal shoot ‘em up. Overall, the variety keeps the game feeling fresh.

Not Without its Flaws

Unfortunately, there are a few things about the game which I think could be different, or improved upon. First is that there are too few races here for my liking. Maybe I shouldn’t have expected so few races, but that’s what I thought this game was supposed to be. The second thing is the game’s XP and level up system. You gain so little XP after completing objectives that you are forced to replay levels to get enough XP to level up your ship’s attributes. Outside of the shield for your ship’s energy, the stat upgrades don’t seem to be useful. A 10% increase in your ship‘s max speed? I sure couldn’t tell. This system seems tacked on to me and really emphasizes that you will need to improve your skill to beat the game. Lastly, there were multiple instances where I was killed by absolutely nothing. One particular incident occurred at the end of an incredibly difficult and intense level, which pissed me off and almost caused me to quit playing the game. Luckily, some research showed me that there were some great shortcuts that pretty much eliminated the entire track. Fix some of these issues and I think a sequel could be a much more satisfying experience.



Outstanding Presentation Deserves Two Thumbs Up

The Next Penelope has an outstanding futuristic presentation. First, the game is absolutely gorgeous. That goes for the in-game graphics, to the cool world map, and ends with the cutscene art. Speaking of story, while I didn’t think it was stellar, the developer did a good job of presenting it to the player without standing in the way of the gameplay. Lastly, is the game’s soundtrack. I read the bandcamp page for the soundtrack, and the developer said this was his first time composing music for a game. I never would have been able to tell. I love the upbeat, futuristic, electronic music, especially during some of the more tense moments.

Conclusion

The Next Penelope proves that Construct 2 can be a viable option for game development. The game is over a bit too quickly for my liking, but if you’re life needs a futuristic, overhead racer with combat and RPG elements, then The Next Penelope might be worth a look.

Final Score: +2

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