A gorgeous (but flawed) adventure
The Nintendo Switch is quickly and consistently filling up with quality indie titles. Now, developer Too Kind Studio is making their eShop debut with their creation Pankapu, an epic hero action-platformer game set in the land of dreams. There as some bumps along the way, but Pankapu ends up being a good (and beautiful) addition to the eShop library.
The story involves a child named Djaha'rell who was traumatized by a tragic event. There are two narratives that play out, the scary and grim reality of Djaha'rell's world and the fantastic world of his dreams. While at times it gets quite convoluted and hard to follow, I appreciated the emphasis on character and plot intertwined throughout the adventure. The visual and audio presentation is outstanding. Rich and vivid colors cover the landscape while beautiful painted horizons shine in the background. The lighting effects accompanied with the whimsical orchestrated soundtrack and sound design made me feel like I was in a dream.
Pankapu is your standard old-school platforming affair. The gameplay concepts are kept to a minimum, with tried and true platforming mixed in with some nice exploration. There are little mischievous beings called "Mudjins" hiding in nooks and crannies throughout the levels, rewarding you for exploring thoroughly and scratching that collectathon itch. These also provide even more challenges to obtain them, if you're up for it.
Though the game is beautiful, unfortunately the level design can be lackluster at times. The way some enemies attack and where they are placed can seem cheap, causing big spikes in difficulty. I love a good challenge, and there wasn't anything too hard to not overcome, but this just highlights one of the bigger disappointments: the loading screens. Every time you die or change screens there is a 5-8 second loading screen. This is by no means a deal-breaker, but when you are facing a rather arduous challenge the punishment only gets worse. The waiting is not excruciatingly long, but just long enough to be slightly frustrating, which ends up being a problem for how challenging the game can get. As for how the game runs while playing, I never had any major hiccups with the frame rate, but the game did freeze on me a couple times.
One of Pankapu's best strengths is its weapon and skills upgrade progression. During the story you are constantly getting little upgrades to your character, some big and some small. At the same time this made me feel more powerful and left me curious and excited to see what would show up next. The controls for the most part feel great. The jumping feels nice and precise, and the button assignment is kept simple as you gain new abilities. For some strange reason only the analog stick can be used for movement, and not the D-Pad. With platforming at the forefront of gameplay I definitely wished I could have utilized the precision of a D-Pad during the trickier situations.
Despite its shortcomings, I really did enjoy my time playing through Pankapu. At its core it's a solid action/platformer, with a beautiful aesthetic and captivating sound track. The difficulty spikes combined with the frequent load times can definitely test your patience, but overall the positives outweigh the negatives. So if you're in the mood for a pleasant platformer, the dreamy world of Pankapu just might be the game for you.