Pankapu Xbox One Review with Stream
Character swapping mechanic provides flavor to combat but isn’t available until later in the game
Vibrant visual presentation
Repetitive enemy design which makes combat a chore
Frame drops during critical platforming moments is annoying
Story isn’t anything special and composed of weirdly named people and places
With beautiful hand drawn visuals and old school platforming gameplay, Pankapu is a slower paced traditional platformer that doesn’t really draw any excitement.
Besides running and jumping from left to right, Pankapu is story driven. Told as a parent reading a storybook to a child, the narrative is whimsically told through cutscenes that are vibrant and detailed. Strangely, pretty much every character and location is titled with some crazy fantasy name that is excessively difficult to pronounce. Luckily, the story is ultimately forgettable and simply acts as weak glue to hold the whole package together.
Taken as a whole, this is a pretty straightforward platformer. You run, jump, use a shield to block, and eventually earn a double jump and ranged attack. There are no heavy RPG mechanics or complicated skill trees to decipher. Unfortunately, some balancing and pacing issues become apparent about a third of the way through the campaign. Combat, a major focus of gameplay, winds up being more annoying than anything. Since there is no incentive to kill enemies, I found myself just trying to jump over them to save time and avoid the whole situation altogether. In games like Zelda or Castlevania, experience points or money is rewarded for killing common enemies. Here, baddies just repeat and get in the way, offering no incentive. There are some difficulty spikes as well. The checkpoint system is usually lenient but there are times when jumping, blocking, and combat is tied together so tightly, it carries brief bursts of Donkey Country Returns type difficulty. The one-hit kills and falling into a pit because of a tediously placed enemy is also frustrating and just not fun.
The controls are responsive (although somewhat floaty), which is paramount in a difficult platformer, but there are moments of frame drops and stuttering. This becomes unfair and frustrating in the more difficult stages. In time, the player will eventually unlock an archer and a magician that can be swapped at will with the traditional sword and shield warrior type. This swap mechanic is really what keeps gameplay entertaining from an otherwise tasteless experience but they don’t become available until later in the campaign. Each character’s slower pace and stop-to-swing attack animation holds back the entire experience too. At the same time, the slower pace was deliberate, putting a stronger focus on strategic platforming as some segments require timing and creative double jumping. But I just couldn’t help feeling bored a couple hours in. Even though the game looks good, it isn’t action packed or fast paced. Enemies also repeat and lack variety. Many times their lacking tells also result in cheap hits and fighting these same enemies over and over is exhausting as it is little more than a chore.
At least everything is pretty. Using bright colors and fluid animation, the hand drawn watercolor visuals are undoubtedly a treat. In fact, the visuals might be too well done as there were many instances that I thought I could interact with the background only to fall through what I thought was a platform or ledge. Kudos must also be given to the voice cast as pronouncing these crazy names deserves recognition and praise.
Pankapu is by no means a must-play platformer but the charming visual representation makes it stand out especially for game that costs around $10. Also available on PS4 and Steam.
Not As Good As: a Metroidvania
Wait For It: Super Meat Boy 2
Also Try: any Rayman platformer
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com