Developer: Too Kind Studio
Publisher: Plug In Digital
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Genre: Action, Platformer
Pankapu is a 2D action platformer developed by Too Kind Studio. It started from Kickstarter funding and passed the Greenlight on the Steam Community in 2016. Mixing RPG elements into the game, the developer aims to bring the beauty of old school action and platform games back to the modern world. As a fan of Mario, Rayman, and Trine, I believe that action RPG platforming genre can become such an amazing and exciting attraction when all the elements are balanced right.
You are playing a character who will fight against fantasy enemies. child friendly, no blood or gore.
You experience the battle between light and darkness. There is a very good message of not being afraid of the darkness, but willing to fight for the light with the hope and faith that the good will conquer the evil in the end, restoring the world with life.
Pankapu presents itself as a colorful cartoon-style adventure. Its mix elements of action, RPG, and platforming caught my eye and reminded me of all the great experiences that I had with this genre. I came into the game with hope and high expectations, but the constant struggle between frustration and fun makes me feel a deep sorrow. Having said that, I still have high hope for future developments. The storytelling begins with a bed time story told by an adult next to a child who would go on to have a nightmare. Pankapu‘s cinematic story format is similar to comic or manga style. The player becomes the legendary hero named Pankapu, taking on an epic adventure to fight against the nightmare and to protect the World of Dreams. During this journey, one will encounter many characters in different locations who will help with plot explanation, offer new abilities to overcome obstacles, and open up new challenges. The game has two levels of reading: the tale of Pankapu, epic and naive, and the one about Djaha’rell’s (the child who is troubled by nightmare) life in dark and tragic real world. Pankapu will be able to collect memory fragments during the game, and those fragments will help reveal the world of Djaha’rell, which will eventually become the healing tool of his trauma.
Each location has a primary theme as indicated by their backgrounds, and each presents challenging levels through their platforming design. You have to meet all the characters and visit all locations in order to complete the game. In the beginning, you will spend a lot of time in the forest, learning how to jump on branches, leaves, and flowers, doge attacks from tree trunk, and fight various enemies. Afterwards, the golden water area will be introduced and you will find out the deadly cost behind this beautiful water. Along the journey, you will meet a spider who will help you, a friend who will tell you stories about the world, a creator, and a evil invader. They are all important and unique for their roles in the plot.
Of course, you have many hidden collectables to find if you aim to be a perfectionist. I enjoy the voice acting during story cut scenes, and wish the game would extend this engaging voice narrative into regular in-game characters’ dialogues instead of just using random noises for their speaking. The vibrant colorful art styles are very pleasant and friendly to both children and adults. The background music is fairly calming, even though it becomes repetitive over time. Often, I found the music turned out to be my only “hope” and “resource” to go while under tremendous stress from gameplay.
It is time to talk about why frustration becomes such a big part of this journey. I understand it is designed to be a 90’s classic platforming style game, but many things just don’t fit well with the checkpoint system. At the beginning of the game, your hero will be given 3 points of health. Each hit from an enemy or thorn bush will take away some of your health points. You die when you lose all of them, of course. Doesn’t it sound so easy? In reality, oftentimes it is difficult while you have to jump, dodge, and hit, all together to survive. Timing is everything in this game, and accuracy is the key to complete each level. Miscalculating distance or time will often lead to unexpected death. This difficulty is added onto with random, sudden drops in frame rate during the game that will lag the character and greatly throw off timing. Hopefully this is something that can be patched.
Checkpoints and red diamonds are the only items to heal you on your adventure. Sometimes, they neither heal you fully nor do they appear at all. Frequently, I have to remember the layout of difficult stages in order to reach each checkpoint. By doing that, stress often overtakes fun. Hitting enemies does not necessarily give you direct benefits and your health points are only increased after you’ve collected enough important items during the level.
With the action-RPG twist, your character gains new abilities to overcome new challenges, but platforming is definitely the primary focus in this game. For example, you start with no special skills except only being able to jump and fight, but you will be able to block attacks and to throw weapons to hostile tree trunks. Players will be able to choose up to 3 abilities, melee attacks, long-range attacks and heal. However, no matter how powerful your character becomes, mastering each platforming layout system is definitely the key to your success. Unfortunately, frustration is inevitable due to you having to manage doing all the actions on the screen along with the in-game performance lag.
Overall, Pankapu is a struggle between increasing frustration and a decreasing fun experience. If you are very good at the platforming genre, you may be able to finish the game within 5 to 6 hours, while gaming time could double or triple if you die 5 to 10 times at each checkpoint. I would recommend this game to platforming game lovers and people who seriously desire an intense challenging experience. For those who feel frustrated after failures again and again, this is not the one that you want to get into. Hopefully, game patch will be released to fix the lag very soon. If developers desire to make a sequel, a better ratio of platforming and action-RPG elements needs to be well-balanced to ease the unnecessary busyness and to help increase in-game enjoyment.
The Bottom Line