Publisher: Plug In Digital
Developer: Too Kind Studio
Designer: Jimmy Kalhart
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Review by Bryce William
I’m on the final boss battle: I’m jumping, dodging, and shooting but I die. My timing is off and I’m punished severely for it. I have now attempted this battle 39 times. It is this difficulty curve that sours Pankapu for me.
The game play is fairly linear. You control Pankapu in a variety of ways, but most often jumping, dodging, and striking. There are hidden collectables in almost every level that encouraged exploration at every turn. Oftentimes an item or path was shrouded by the foreground. I found myself revisiting older levels after I obtained a new ability and enjoyed using my new techniques at a familiar setting.
The controls unfortunately cannot be mapped. You use the analogue stick to move Pankapu, which may frustrate side-scrolling fans. I felt it worked fine with the analogue stick, but it would have been nice to switch to the d-pad during careful platforming.
As the game progresses and you gain abilities called “Aegis”. One Aegis provides you with the ability to perform double-jumps, while another allows you to descend slowly from a jump or fall. You swap between these abilities in real time by using the left or right shoulder buttons. While it can be fun executing a double-jump into a glide, I found myself occasionally hitting the wrong button, which lead to an instant death.
The difficulty ramps up at a frustrating rate; in earlier stages the level feels right, but later you are met with many cheap enemy attacks or level designs. There are checkpoints riddled throughout each level which prevents loss of progress, however it did not take away from the feeling that I had been cheated . Most of the time, there is no incentive for defeating an enemy, so I would avoid the fight entirely.
The spike of difficulty with the boss battles was infuriating. One boss took me 25 attempts to defeat, while the next boss took me 38 attempts. As there were no checkpoints during these battles, death meant restarting a lengthy fight. I could not help but think if the developers adjusted enemy damage dealt, or lessened damage received from level obstacles, this could be a much better game. Most boss battles are a few levels above frustrating. Once you find out what you need to do, it’s a matter of executing their defeat flawlessly.
The art and musical style are quite fitting for what the game is: a fable being told to a child. The graphics look and feel perfect for the style of this game. I found the music to be quite catchy in many levels.
I should note that the game crashed for me three times, which is forgivable with any indie game. If this had happened during a boss battle, I would have surely thrown my Switch across the room.
I could not beat this game, despite trying 39 times to be exact. Every time I started to enjoy myself, the game found a way to frustrate me. For every good step forward in Pankapu, I found myself going two steps back due to an extremely difficult level or boss battle. If tough-as-nails boss battles are your thing, you may enjoy Pankapu, but I unfortunately did not.