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Penny’s Big Breakaway Review (PS5) – A Spectacular Showstopper For All

Penny’s Big Breakaway Review (PS5) – Standing as the team’s debut title after their previous collaborative work on Sonic Mania, Penny’s Big Breakaway is a phenomenal new IP that lands in every single way that it sets out to achieve.

Intricate and layered movement mechanics are contained and used in levels that are designed masterfully to encourage both beginners and veterans to explore and improve their skills.

From the beginning of the game to the very end, I found myself grinning from ear to ear as I steadily learnt and became familiar with the luscious control scheme and the phenomenal world on show here. Before I knew it, I was replaying levels into the early hours.

Penny’s Big Breakaway Review (PS5) – A Spectacular Showstopper For All

A Whole New World

As with most platformers of this type, the story here isn’t setting out to win any awards, but it absolutely doesn’t need to. The world of Macaroon is a phenomenal setting that avoids the set dressing of many other familiar 3D platforms; instead of jumping through grassy plains and deserts, this game throws you into imaginative new settings that are a joy to experience.

The same goes for the eclectic cast of characters on display here; Penny herself is full of spritely personality and is a fun character to see react to the offbeat shenanigans around her. The supporting cast are similarly memorable and are great additions to a game already full of interesting sights.

The main narrative of Penny escaping a King on charges of treason after a courtly mishap is hilarious in its own right, but also does a great job at allowing the platforming to explore some truly weird and wonderful scenarios that wouldn’t appear anywhere else (giant ball of penguins, anyone?). This really helped to bring the entire game into a cohesive whole.

This story is played out in expressive 2D animation as well as worthy 3D sections that feature some impressive animations for the most part. Animations have a great sense of squash and stretch across the board, helping in expressing the various personalities of the cast that you come across.

Luscious Gameplay

From the minute you start the first level of the game, Penny’s Big Breakaway puts everything on the table; no moves are gated behind progression and all power-ups are completely suited to specific contexts. Because of this, you’re free to experiment with, and learn exactly how Penny can use Yo-yo to get around the levels.

Moves are built around mobility and building momentum to help you get over obstacles in your way, in sometimes unintended ways. The sense of player expression in working out your way around particular obstacles was intensely satisfying in a way not many other 3D platformers have achieved.

Another huge aspect of the level design in Penny’s Big Breakaway is that it never feels like the game forces you to slow down. Focusing on the main path through a stage, I found myself encouraged to string my various yo-yo moves together to build up huge speed and get around groups of penguins and boost over gaps.

Unlike some of its contemporaries (and other games that this team has worked on), my sense of speed was only a reward and never punished me for wanting to try and optimise my movement; Penny’s move set gracefully folds in on itself to allow for almost limitless chaining of abilities and an unsurpassed sense of momentum that remained very easy to control despite the velocities you can reach.

The same is also true for the boss battles at the end of each set of levels – none of them pivot away from the strengths of Penny’s Big Breakaway and they all maintain a similar sense of flow and fluidity that helps to – once again – keep the pace moving nicely and make sure the game is cohesive.

Slowing Down

Despite the clear focus on momentum, Penny’s Big Breakaway features elements that encourage players to slow down and explore the levels that they might be rushing through. Every level throughout the game features three hidden collectable “show pieces” and three small side missions to complete.

These are optional but add a lot of extra flavour to the areas that you explore and help them to feel like actual places that people might exist. The dialogue for the side missions consistently made me chuckle as I stumbled across each one and objectives were generally a fun challenge to complete in specific areas.

These range from collecting specific items, to reaching a point without getting hit, or even just scoring enough points in a combo of various tricks. None of them felt like they were intrusive and were easily skippable if I didn’t feel like it. The hidden “show pieces” allow for the unlocking of secret “star globe” levels, that present themselves as tests of particular mechanics.

These were a refreshing challenge when compared to the relatively light challenge of the main campaign overall and are a great addition for players who want to test their skills even further.

Full of Personality

As I alluded to above, surrounding these phenomenally approachable and deep mechanics is a world that I couldn’t help but fall in love with.

Instead of falling in line with classic platformer tropes, the first level of Penny’s Big Breakaway takes place in a bustling city and leaping over construction sites where another one offers a tour of an active volcano that uses its magma to cook all sorts of meals. Each locale is memorable.

The imagination on display here is absolutely commendable and each new biome I visited was a feast for the eyes, with expressive animations and an incredibly vibrant and distinct palette for each.

This is helped by a soundtrack that manages to perfectly capture the spirit of every new area and every encounter in a score that jumps from bouncy to quite lowkey when it needs to be. Each new area was a bonafide treat.

Each one is defined by specific gimmicks and details, but none feel forced in or under baked. While each section doesn’t have a consistent number of areas, each one feels like it has just enough to fully realise that particular area’s gimmick before moving onto the next one.

There are also bonus illustrations that are unlockable through particularly good performances throughout various levels as well, adding another healthy scoop of identity to these various locales.

Try, Try Again

Penny’s Big Breakaway is a short game. Each level can be rushed through without engaging with side content or distractions if your focus is more interested in speed. And that is something that the game embraces with open arms.

A dedicated time attack mode is accessible from the very beginning of the game and is built for players to rush through and optimise their movement through each level of the game and upload their times to online leaderboards to earn bragging rights.

While I enjoyed hunting for collectables and taking my time through the various areas on my first playthrough, the experience of seeing my movement improve in real time was incredibly satisfying and I found myself replaying stage after stage to improve my time. This is where the true legs are with Penny’s Big Breakaway and is a phenomenal reason to just keep messing around with the movement on offer here.

Each level is just long enough that time trial attempts aren’t overbearing and – to be perfectly honest – the movement was that much fun that I have absolutely no worries with playing the same segment over and over. Everything feels perfect.

That sense of mastery and tightness defines Penny’s Big Breakaway – a hallmark of quality for the genre in almost every conceivable way and it should be held up with classics of the genre.

Penny’s Big Breakaway is now available on PS5.

Review code generously provided by publisher.



The Final Word

With layered yet totally approachable gameplay mechanics and a fully-realised world to put those mechanics in, Penny's Big Breakaway is a breakout success that should be experienced by absolutely everyone with a passing interest in 3D platformers. Every moment I spent with this game was utter bliss and learning the intricacies of movement and learning my way around imaginative levels was a treat. Genuinely phenomenal.