Truthfully, I just sort of glanced over Penguin Break when it appeared in the New Releases list on the web site that I monitor daily. However, when the developer requested that a staff member of iPhone Life take a look at the game I figured “why not? It can’t hurt anything, right?” I’m actually glad I decided to take the developer up on his offer. Penguin Break takes the “ancient” concept that was introduced to me via that game Jawbreaker on one of my Pocket PC devices, throws in some cute penguins and a couple of neat power up twists, and actually manages to make a simple yet engaging game out of the whole thing. The big question is “who will break first, the penguins or you?”
Penguin Break ha
s two game modes: Escape and Frenzy. Escape is really sort of an “inverted” Jawbreaker. Instead of starting with a full screen and trying to work your way down to nothing, each level starts with a number of penguins in columns at the bottom of the screen. The columns slowly (or not so slowly, depending on how far you are in the game) start rising to the top of the screen, and you must keep them from reaching the top until you score a certain number of points in the round. You do this by tossing snowballs at the penguins. If you hit a penguin that’s the same color as the snowball, that penguin and all other like colored penguins that are touching will disappear. Otherwise, just the penguin you hit disappears. Either way, penguins on top of anything that disappears will fall down to fill in the gaps.
If falling penguins form lines of three or more of the same color they will disappear as well, causing chain reactions. Chain reactions are nice, as they help speed you towards your goal for a given level. Additionally, as you skillfully clear off the board you can earn power ups (the specifics of acquisition can be read about in the help file). These include a bomb which will clear away a small portion of the penguins relative to where you threw it, a snowball that changes all penguins of the color you hit to match the color of the snowball you threw, and a snowball that will eliminate all penguins of a specific color that are on the board, as long as you hit a penguin that’s the same color as the snowball. When using the color change snowball, if you accidentally hit a penguin that’s the same color as the snowball it will act like a regular snowball.
In Frenzy mode you start with a screen full of penguins and must clear them away in a given amount of time using the same mechanics as in Escape mode. Thankfully, unlike in Jawbreaker you will never get stuck clearing the screen. The only thing you have to worry about is whether or not you can get everything clear in time. Every time you beat a level you get rollover seconds to take to the next level. I actually enjoyed this mode more than I thought I would, but I still think Escape mode is much more entertaining.
The controls are easy enough. Simply click on a penguin to throw a snowball at it. If the columns seem to be getting too haphazard, shake the device a little to try and even things out. Overall the game seems fairly well balanced. It would be nice if there were some sort of timer power up in Frenzy mode that would add a few seconds to the clock, but for a lot of people that might make that mode too easy. I guess I just need to practice and get better at Frenzy mode.
The graphics in Penguin Break are decent enough. The penguins themselves are pretty cute, dancing or fidgeting or whatever it is they’re doing as they wait for you to toss snowballs at them. There are little effects when appropriate, like a sparkle around the penguins when they change color or a small target to indicate which penguin you actually clicked on. The sound effects aren’t bad, but due to the immense repetition of actions like tossing a snowball and actually hitting the penguins the sounds can get kind of monotonous after a while. It would probably help if there were some music, but alas there is not. The presentation as a whole is pretty simple, but it all works well together.
Penguin Break is a nice little game. It adds some welcome variances to the Jawbreaker game mechanics, and it doesn’t take long in either mode before the action can get intense. Even with the fact that it uses bombs when available to dispatch some of the penguins, it’s still a very family-friendly game, so that’s a plus as well. Penguin Break would certainly be a fine addition to anyone’s casual game collection.