Dutch game developers are relatively scarce, mainly because the industry started blossoming only ten years ago in the Netherlands. Some developers anchored their names firmly in the gaming world and created world wide hits played by millions. Today I will focus on a product created by the mainly unknown dutch indie developer, Self Made Miracle. I have to be really honest here and say that I’ve never heard of this developer before. However, I don’t have to be ashamed about it, because they were founded only two years ago and Penarium is their first Steam title.
Penarium was developed by Self Made Miracle, published by Team 17 Digital and is waiting for download on Steam since 09-22-2015. In Penarium we will meet, Willy, a farmer’s son who is bored of working on his father’s farm all day long. He wants to see the world and longs for adventure. One day Willy is working on a far edge of the terrain when a circus comes by. Intrigued and curious, Willy goes to the circus and meets a mysterious tall individual. The man guides Willy to an empty circus wagon, Willy, naively enters the wagon expecting to see the best show of his life. Once in the wagon the gate closes behind Willy and the circus caravan drives on. When the gate opens again and Willy exits the wagon, he finds himself in the midst of a circus arena surrounded by a cheering and bloodthirsty crowd. Willy, now is the main attraction in Penarium, the sadistic circus extravaganza, much resembles scenes from a classic childhood story. While I watched the intro, Pinocchio and Stromboli came in my mind immediately, which makes you wonder if the developers took inspiration from Pinocchio
Now that you are in the circus you have to entertain the crowd by smashing barrels, catching bottles, pushing buttons and more while avoiding a large collection of deathtraps, like: saw blades, rockets, flamethrowers and many more. The deathtraps definitely are deadly, when you happen to be hit by a saw-blade or rocket, Willy will disintegrate immediately leaving nothing, but his shoes and a fountain of blood. This may sound like a lot of gore, but it actually isn’t, it is brought to you in a more comical way than in a vile way. In every level the deathtraps will be better and faster, creating a nerve-wrecking theater of pain. The deathtraps move randomly, so there is no way of planning ahead or learn after you died. This is good old 2D, side scrolling, jump & run action, with easy and responsive controls. Although you can play it using the arrow keys, I strongly advice a controller. There are three different game modes. First is story mode, this is where Willy has to beat all levels to advance in the story and hopefully escape the circus. Second is arcade mode, a single level where you will try to stay alive as long as possible. You can collect coins here which can be spend on power-ups in the store. Third is multiplayer where you can play with or against a friend.
The game is fast paced and many deaths are unavoidable, many, many deaths. Oddly enough I didn’t find it frustrating to die often, but I do think the game shortened my lifespan a couple of years. Although campaign mode isn’t very long, (30 levels) arcade and multiplayer will keep you occupied for quite some time. The controls are as good as they are simple, left, right, jump and double jump, everything is spot on. Graphically the game has a charming, pixel appearance. It looks as simple as the controls, but it shows care and polish. Sound is very good, the voice acting is very well done. The music is good and suits the game, exactly what you would expect to hear at a circus. The game lacks volume controls, but that won’t kill the fun you’ll have dying in the levels. This is an excellent jump and run title and a great debut game, one can only hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of Self Made Miracle. You don’t have to like the genre to love this game, alone or with a friend this will guarantee hours of fun.
overall score 4.0/5.0