Game Review #396: Penguin Wars (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Steven Green
Developer: City Connection
Publisher: Dispatch Games
Category: Arcade / Fighting
Release Date: 06.27.2019
Price (at time of Review): $14.99 Digital | $29.99 Physical
Penguin Wars returns to the scene seemingly out of nowhere with an up-ressed version coming to Nintendo Switch after originally making its home in arcades and having a Game Boy release in the west. This title is one of the more interesting ones to end up on the Switch as it is a grouping of weird ideas that culminates into an enjoyable experience with a ton of potential. Pong to the max coming out of a group of battle-ready penguins with the most Japanese vibes of any game I have played thus far on a Nintendo system.
The basics of the story behind this quirky title is following Riley and his friends as they travel through an arcade paradise known as Gira Gira Land. Beyond that you aren’t meant to ask a lot of questions or get too held up on where this title came from as it is from an era that wasn’t about burying you in story or lore, but about pure gameplay experiences that you can really focus on, and this is one of those games.
The basics of gameplay in this title consist of directing your penguin companion against an array of cutesy animal enemies and attempting to take them through a ball-tossing beat-down. You have balls placed on either side of the stage and you roll them across the stage aiming for the enemies on the other side. Much like in Pong you have balls going while attempting to score, but this title may be closer to a game of Dodgeball in that you have multiple balls being thrown on both sides with the target being the enemy fighters rather than a net or goal of some kind. You run through this basic gameplay loop throughout and collect items and candy to boost your character’s abilities as you progress through the single player mode.
Multiplayer Arcade Assault
You also have the ability to play against friends one-on-one or in pairs which is where this game really excels. Playing with others is where it's at here as the single player mode is fun, but seriously lacking in depth outside of progressing your character and mastering gameplay. Against friends you can just have a good ole time trying to beam them with your balls of chaos and this mode makes for the most fun I had with this title while playing through it. Make sure if you want to pick up this title you plan on getting a group together to give this one a shot as that is where you won’t be disappointed. Little bits of customization also add to the experience with the addition of bombs or other items adding more flavor to each match.
The game also takes a page from the fighting genre of arcade cabinets with its health bar system of determining who wins each match. This is a small way the game matches up with the original arcade genre, however it is definitely trying to be a brawler on top of taking on its other genre tropes.
You have such an interesting mash-up of genres in this title that it makes up for the lack of depth you find in this title and others in the arcade genre, as well as the monotony you can find after mastering a pretty basic gameplay loop. Playing a fighting game that has a Pong style of competing while also having the quirky characters and uniquely Japanese setting makes for a title that will interest even those who aren’t fans of any of the genres I have mentioned thus far.
Penguin Wars was a surprise for me. I am not a fan of arcade games in general, and don’t really like games that tout their pure gameplay experiences. I tend to lean towards story and depth of content, and thus was not expecting a ton when I started playing through this title. However, the fun gameplay loop that is like nothing I have ever played really allowed for a good time, especially with friends next to you. With that said, this game still suffers from the same complaints you will find in other arcade games. In the end it is a short game with not much of a semblance of a story and a serious lack of depth. This title also is easily mastered, and a lack of ways to chop up the monotony hurts this title’s longevity on top of that. And still, despite those complaints, I found myself having fun and getting addicted to running through multiple rounds. This is something that might pique the interest of those outside the arcade lovers, but it’s definitely a unique experience that those inside that community should give a close look.
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*Review Code Provided by Dispatch Games