When I first heard of The Next Penelope and found out it was a racing game, I just couldn’t get the image of a futuristic Wacky Races out of my head. Sadly this has nothing to do with that at all. Thankfully it is still a cracking game.
My first impression of The Next Penelope is that if there was to ever be a proper 2D Wipeout clone, then this would be much of the way to being that, however it is a lot more than a simple racing game, which I will come to in a bit.
What really impressed me early on, was the way your ship controlled, the momentum, the inertia, everything was spot on, even the differences in speed. I was a little concerned when first starting the game up, to be informed I didn’t need to worry about accelerating and the game would do this automatically.
However, it really works well, as do the choices with how you steer the ship. You can either use the left analogue stick in a similar way you’d expect in a Micro Machines or the like, essentially a more traditional option. Or you can use the left and right triggers to make left and right turns.
I found that the triggers offered a greater control, especially when navigating a series of corners or battling other craft.
The combat and racing in the game are top notch and offer up a decent challenge and whilst laps are pretty short on the whole and the field can be sparse, the action is always there and keeping you involved.
What really makes this game stand out though is the story and the setting and usually I am one for despising story in racing games, just let me race and do away with the fluff but here it is integral to what makes this game work.
The concept here is simply bizarre, ancient Greek mythology mixed with futuristic racer, which not only includes racing, but also traditional boss battles that would feel at home in bullet-hell shooters or a game such as Velocity.
It blows my mind that not only could someone combine these aspects, both in terms of setting, but also gameplay, but that they could also make it work and work really well.
Again, there are things here that I pretty much hate in certain genres, such as upgrading elements of your craft, but here it really does make sense and it fits with a story that is really well scripted.
Now whilst this next bit shouldn’t have an impact on one’s feelings towards a game, sometimes it is hard to ignore. The Next Penelope is a one man game, a proper one man effort too. Aurelien Regard has programmed the game, done the artwork, the music, etc and I can tell you this; it is another example of an Indie that puts AAA studio output to shame.
It has been in Early Access for a while, but I largely wanted to avoid it until it got a full release, so I am unable to comment on any issues it may have had, but the simple fact is this; The Next Penelope has released without any bugs or issues that I have been able to find.
There is a multiplayer option included, but at the point of this review I have been unable to test this, as I have had no one to play with me. This is because it is local multiplayer only, which is a shame, because it could be a ton of fun with online play. Again I appreciate this is a game by a single person, so hopefully it is something that can be added should the game sell as well as it deserves.
I went into The Next Penelope with low expectations, a game that would be fun for a couple of hours and then move on. What I found though was something that has blown me away, forget this being an achievement of one guy, it is a spectacular game in its own right and one that shouldn’t be as good as it ended up being.