One thing that turns me off in press releases or iTunes descriptions is phrases like “no analog in the App Store” or “this game is unique”. My problem with such wording is 99 percent of the time it isn’t true. Just describe the game to me, and I’ll decide if I’ve ever played anything like it or not. Besides, with more than 500,000 apps in the App Store, chances are even as a developer you don’t know if someone else has made a game like yours or not. That had me a bit worried when it came to Feed The Penguin, but as it turns out the game is unique in my experience, at least when it comes to mechanics. Add to that the fact that it’s both challenging and fun, and that pretty much spells “winner” in my book.
Your goal is to help what appears to be a mechanical penguin get all the food that appears on each level. Now before you ask, I don’t know why a mechanical penguin would want food, but that’s how it is. In order to accomplish this task you’ll need to create a path for the penguin between two arranged points, making sure the penguin touches every piece of food. The caveat is that the path has already been created for you, and all you can do is maneuver it using one or more designated “joints” in the line that you can drag around the screen. The mechanic works really well, even on the small iPod Touch screen, but it can get a bit hairy if two joints are pretty close together. Fine tuning the positions can be a bit of a trick as well, but it’s all quite manageable.
Besides the food there are three lightbulbs that you can try and light on each level. You only need to get the food to beat the level, but true mastery comes when you can touch all three bulbs on a given level. You also need a certain number of bulbs to unlock each world after the first, so you probably don’t want to ignore them if you can help it. Unfortunately there are plenty of obstacles between you and the prizes. In the first level alone you’ll have to contend with electrical sockets, umbrellas, cowboy boots, spiders and more. Each adversary has its own “attack” pattern and speed, so even once you feel you’ve nailed the path you might struggle to get the timing down; worst case you might even have to rethink your path because timing on the current one is impassible.
There’s no question that you’ll feel an intense thrill when you manage to get all three lightbulbs on some of these levels. Unfortunately, beyond that momentary rush and the ability to brag about your exploits on Facebook and Twitter, there isn’t much to reward you in this game. There are no achievements or integration with services such as Game Center, and the levels don’t even have a score beyond the number of lightbulbs you get. That doesn’t diminish the fun of playing through the game, but once you’ve completed all the levels with three bulbs there’s no reason to go back.
Visually Feed The Penguin is quite nice. The backgrounds have the appearance of either being painted or charcoal, but they certainly don’t feel like typical puzzle game backdrops. The penguin and obstacles are well designed and despite being somewhat small there’s plenty of animation to go around. The sound effects are an interesting combination of toy related noises, often sounding like mechanical animals or squeaky toys. The single in-game song is a music box rendition of “Born Free”, which is great the first time or two through but gets old rather quickly.
As the non-word game puzzle sector gets increasingly bloated with physic based affairs, it’s good to have more games that don’t require me to fling or smash something in order to succeed. Feed The Penguin offers a nice alternative to the standard selections that are available on the App Store, and it also happens to be an extremely entertaining one. It requires you to think outside the box, it doesn’t just hand you a three bulb ranking on any given level, and the path manipulation mechanic is really cool. I’d love to see a few achievements, but otherwise I’m not sure what could make this game better than it already is.
Overall Score: 9/10
App Store Link
This game was reviewed on an iPod Touch 4 running iOS 5.1.1.