Penny’s Big Breakaway – Review

Penny - Key Art

Penny’s Big Breakaway is the debut title from Evening Star, a studio founded in 2018 by (among others) Christian Whitehead of Sonic Mania fame. A brand new IP from a brand new studio, Penny’s Big Breakaway is a 3D platformer that hearkens to the vibrant and erratic era of early 2000s SEGA.

You play as the titular Penny whose yo-yo becomes sentient after she finds a cosmic string. Upon completely botching an audition in front of Emperor Eddie, Penny is deemed an enemy of the state and flees, followed close behind by the Emperor’s army of penguins. Beyond this opening sequence, there is very little story here. Cute animated conversations between Penny and the various bosses play out after defeating them, but the narrative is not anything to write home about.

Penny - Level

The art style and music are highlights, making the game feel like a forgotten gem of a bygone era. The colours border on garish and yet it somehow works, creating an oddly familiar palette while also not looking like anything else. The soundtrack wouldn’t feel out of place at a ball pit or jumping castle and scratches an itch I didn’t know I had. The way this game looks and sounds goes a long way to making it such a charming experience and Evening Star has done its homework when it comes to old-school SEGA platformers.

Penny’s Big Breakaway consists of 11 worlds split into 2-4 levels, each with their own visual style, music and mechanics. While it largely plays like any other modern 3D platformer, it does break from (or return to?) convention in one big way: the camera angle is fixed. This is an odd design decision as not being able to move the camera around can make judging the distance between platforms difficult. It doesn’t ruin the game by any stretch, but it does make Penny’s adventure feel a little more archaic than the average throwback.

Instead of a double jump, Penny uses her yo-yo to swing in mid-air, she can also ride on it like a little buggy complete with a Sonic-esque charge-up animation. Levels are filled with various hazards whether it’s beams of electricity, bottomless pits or mobs of penguins. Each level has three little tasks to complete (usually get from A to B in a certain amount of time or without taking damage) and three secret medallions to find.

Completing a level ends with a busking sequence where you have to nail button prompts to pump up your overall score. These are fine but I did encounter weird issues where it was like the game wasn’t reading my input, or was reading the wrong input. Unfortunately, the game has several bugs, largely to do with collision detection or button inputs, both critical in a platformer. They’re not so constant that they ever stopped me from playing, but they were a frustrating occurrence throughout my playthrough.

Penny - Boss

The final level in a world culminates in a boss fight, and these are a treat. Their ambition may sometimes exceed the tech, but for the most part, the bosses in Penny’s Big Breakaway are interesting fights mechanically and force you to use all of her abilities. Rounding out the games offerings are a series of short but tricky bonus levels to get through, and a time trial mode for the speedrunners.

Penny’s Big Breakaway is a cohesive, if flawed, package, with each element occasionally managing to coalesce into a charming, nostalgic adventure. For me, coming to it as a fan of platformers both new and old, I had fun. Penny’s Big Breakaway is simple, a little clunky and buggy at times, but still has enough flair to be worth checking out.

Rating: 7/10

Penny’s Big Breakaway was reviewed on PS5 with a code provided by Private Division.