Pankapu is a stunning Indie Platformer with a wealth of charm, from its rich narrative to its clever protagonist, and the host of creatures and characters that players encounter along the way. Released on September 21st, 2016, from the great storytellers at Too Kind Studio, Pankapu offers full controller support, Steam achievements, numerous Language options, plus additional Episodes down the road. But can this visually stunning, smart title compete with similar Platformers?
It’s a Lovely World of Dreams…
Players explore the land of dreams, called Omnia, as experienced by the tiny, Marvin the Martian-like being known as Pankapu, a hero created by Iketomi, the God of Dreams. Your task is to defeat the nightmare denizens that are flooding into Omnia, while gathering collectibles, powering-up with new moves and equipment upgrades, and meeting allies and adversaries along the way.
There’s a Retro feel to Pankapu, with its lovely, 2D side-scrolling graphics, which combine nicely with an understated, soothing original soundtrack, and surprisingly satisfying voice acting (for an Indie Platformer, that is). The world comes alive in the story here, and the landscape is very appealing as you move from location to location. The dream-world has plenty of obstacles, but even your enemies are animated in a cute, whimsical way, no matter how much danger they present.
The story is told in a children’s tale sort of way, with a blending of Djara’rell’s troubled real life, and the world within the fable. The two-sided aspect of the story creates some excellent immersion and complexity to the story here, and the plot is intriguing and clever without overshadowing the fact that Pankapu is, at its heart, a beautiful platformer. I absolutely love this style of storytelling, and I’ve rarely seen a better example of it than within the narrative in Pankapu.
Character Customization and Controls
One thing that really enhances the experience in Pankapu is the diversity of upgrades that you can unlock as you go along. There’s a skill tree system for gaining new abilities, plus you can alternate between three Aegis “jobs” at will; you also gain new enhancements for your weapons by adding Dream powers to them. There’s a relatively seamless tutorial process, in which your tiny, flying companion, Chii, teaches you how to use new abilities, though at times this created a rather jarring halt to the action; since the combat styles and moves are fairly rudimentary, the hints were nice, but I would have liked to skip through them a bit faster.
The controls are very intuitive and likely just what you’d expect from your average Platformer – it’s easier to go with a controller on this one, but I found that the keyboard configuration was much more viable of an alternative than most platformers offer. Cycling through the menu felt a bit tedious at times since I could only turn the pages in one direction, but these minor hiccups just take a bit of getting used to, and after that, it’s hardly noticeable.
Another great feature is the checkpoint system, and I was pleased – and relieved – that most levels have numerous mini save points along the way. While I wouldn’t label this title as an extremely challenging example of a platformer, it certainly has some very complicated moments, and I spared myself added frustration by remembering that my progress was saved frequently.
Pankapu is a pleasant title that feels very casual, and while the difficulty does eventually scale, it never packs a challenge level that dips into menacing; while I’m sure some players might be looking for a more demanding platformer, it also makes Pankapu a great choice for casual gamers, or even younger members of the Platformer-loving community.
Speaking strictly on its platformer qualities, Pankapu is a fairly mundane, run-of-the-mill title in terms of level complexity, difficulty, and replay value. However, the rich narrative and immersive storytelling makes it stand out in the crowd, especially when paired with the lovely, bright landscape of Omnia; the original soundtrack further enhances the whole package, and it turns Pankapu into something of an interactive children’s story rather than just yet another 2D, side-scrolling adventure.
I’m usually hesitant to embrace games that release episodically, simply because there’s such a high risk of the early releases in the series feeling unfinished or anticlimactic for the sake of the overall storyline arch; however, Pankapu feels like a great foundation to an ongoing tale, and I look forward to the next chapters of Djara’rell and Pankapu’s saga. And while Pankapu isn’t the most revolutionary or novel Platformer I’ve played in recent years, the entire package makes it a worthy addition to any platformer collection, or perhaps even a Steam Library full of beautifully illustrated, compelling, plot-rich video games.