I love the challenge of platformers – with deadly ledges placed to make you fall or traps sprung out at you from nowhere. The mechanics to a successful platformer has to be the element of surprise and Penarium offers this in the form of randomly-generated traps. Unlike a lot of platforming titles, you can’t predict what’s going to happen because you’ve got to this part before, as the gameplay suddenly switches to something else.

You play the role of Willy, a show performer trapped in a circus of death, whereby the sadistic crowd are cheering for your blood. The arena-like gameplay serves up a challenge as death traps are thrown at you and you must dodge them by either running or jumping around them.

Penarium explosions

The level design is very minimal and in terms of what you’ll see on the screen mainly, will mostly stick. It’s quite interesting really because despite the backdrop hardly changing, the game still feels entertaining, as well as frustrating. There were a few times when I had to give up – when the sticky gum dropped on the floor and my character couldn’t escape the deadly saw blade coming towards him. Combined with the random levels, this only adds to the frustration, as you can’t use your previous knowledge to get past the traps.

I also found the steepness in difficulty quite sudden, as it felt very easy to begin with, as most of the avoiding obstacles required you just to jump. Then the next level would throw so many new mechanics at you, it would over bear you resulting in your death.

Once you’ve finished the main campaign, you’ll probably be pretty much done with the game completely too, which is unfortunate for a lot of ID@Xbox games. The longevity for a lot of them isn’t enough for them to be truly enjoyed. Most just offer a single player experience and that’s it. Maybe if there were some multiplayer elements or even DLC, it might just draw the interest out longer.

Some praise can be placed on the 2D art style, as it’s appropriate for this type of game, it also makes it easier to on performance I guess, especially when there’s a tonne of explosions going off around you. If it was using 3D graphics, this might take a hit on performance.

Penarium is a short burst of enjoyment, but sadly after a few rounds of surviving the circus hell, you’ll be ready to feed yourself to the lions. The lack of content and variety really let this title down and I found myself getting more frustrated and tired of it the more I went on.


  • Charming 2D art style


  • Lack of content
  • Frustrating traps
  • Steep difficulty curve

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