Just because you are a cute and cuddly character doesn't mean you're going to be a popular game animal. If that were the case you would see a whole lot more games featuring the penguin, the well-dressed animal that waddles around in icy cold climates. That's right; it's the penguin, a character generally ignored by the video game industry, a cute little animal that's easy to root for. Besides games like Penguin Wars, Mutant Penguin, and Puck the Puzzle Penguin, few companies have given our tuxedoed pals a real break.
Perhaps that's why I'm happy to bring you the review of Penguin Land, a cute little Master System game that will have you going for days (if not weeks) to come. You play a blue and white penguin (for whatever reason) who is doing his best to deliver an egg back to the base before anything bad can happen to it. What could go wrong? Well, you could be chased by bears, fall down large holes, and run into all kinds of other dilemmas. If you can get the eggs home safe you're off to the next challenge; if not, then it's back to the start for you.
Penguin Land isn't all that complex, one button allows you to jump about while the other is used for digging. In a lot of respects Penguin Land has a lot in common with the classic computer game Lode Runner. You push a large egg around the non-slippery ice and dig down passing all kinds of treacherous conditions in order to deliver your precious cargo home safely. The problem is; there are only so many ways you can go before you get boxed in, get into a fight with a bear, or the egg cracks. And if you take too long deciding which way to go then it's game over for you! The game is all about learning the levels and mastering the paths to get you where you need to be in the fastest time.
For what it is - a compelling puzzler with a cute lead - it does it very well. The controls are easy, the challenge is adequate, and it takes a long time to master all 30 worlds. There are times when you get stuck in a corner and have to restart, but more times than not it has to do with you taking the wrong path or making a stupid mistake. If you get into the theme, then it's easy to stay addicted to this title for quite some time.
Although I take issue with the color of our penguin buddy, it's hard to deny that he is a good looking character with silly (but not overdone) animation. The game itself resembles an upside down version of Ice Climbers, but manages to hold its own with unique game play, good graphics, and a lot of variety in the levels.
At its heart Penguin Land is just another cute puzzle game, but there are few that are able to combine this level of challenge and not be sunk by a lot of frustration. It's not a perfect game (and you will curse at the TV screen at least once in each level), but what Penguin Land does it does with great precision and grace. This is a game that could easily be resurrected on the Game Boy Advance, it's an addictive theme that is easy to just pick up and play.