Review: Pengo (Atari 5200)

In this review, we brave the cold in the Atari 5200 game Pengo. We find out how well this survival game plays.

This game was released in 1983. It is a port from an arcade game.

You play a penguin. You go up against two enemies at a time. Defeat them all to advance to the next stage.

To defeat the enemies, you need to shove blocks in their direction. There are two kinds of blocks. The more common one are the normal ice blocks. These can be destroyed by enemies. They can also be broken up by you if you push one into either a wall or another block. The other block is the textured block. These can’t be destroyed.

At the beginning of each round, you’ll notice a number of blocks flash. In these blocks, enemies can spawn and attack you. They will only flash for a brief period of time, so remembering as many locations is possible can greatly improve your chances. The reason for this is that if you destroy a block that has flashed at any time, you’ll get a bonus 500 points and you defeat an enemy before they even have a chance to attack you.

A tally of the unspawned enemies is kept just below the score. If you remove all of them, you’ll only have two enemies left on screen. Defeat one of them and the game will give you a limited amount of time to defeat the other. If not, you’ll advance to the next stage.

While it’s not immediately obvious at first, beating levels quickly can earn you large bonuses. If you go particularly quickly, you’ll get up to 5,000 bonus points in a round. So, there’s definitely an incentive to move quickly.

You are given a total of 5 free lives. While it is more than possible to preserve lives in this game, this is still a finite number of lives.

If you happened to have play one of the many variants of Sokoban, a lot of the skills you get from that game definitely applies here. You can push blocks, but not pull them.

There is a bit of a learning curve to this game. It may take a few rounds to figure out on your own how to play this game. Once you do get the basics of this game, your chances do improve quite a bit.

One thing about this game is the fact that the game does get a little repetitive after a while. What you see in the first level is more or less what you’ll see in future levels.

Another problem with this game is the fact that there is no real high score system. This means you have to look at your high score before starting a new game to know how well you did.

A third issue I have with this game is the fact that there is no level numbering system. After a few rounds, it’s easy to lose track what level you are on. This forces you to rely on high score to get an idea how well you did.

One thing this game has going for it is that there is a certain degree of originality to be had here. The ways in which you can defeat enemies certainly spices things up here.

Overall, a lot of the flaws in this game are minor. It’s not a bad game, really. A lack of a high score system and the somewhat steeper learning curve does hold this game back somewhat. Still, the signs of originality works in this games favor as well.

The graphics are pretty good. I would have liked to have seen more variety between levels besides a slight adjustment to the color pallet. The rendering of all the characters on screen isn’t bad at all if you ask me.

The music is pretty good. The sound effects are pretty decent. Overall, the audio is also quite solid.

Overall, this is a pretty good game. There are some minor flaws including a lack of a high score and any annotation to the level. The learning curve is also a little on the steep side, but not painfully so. Some of the elements are quite original such as the attack system. The graphics are pretty good and the audio is quite solid. An overall good game.

Furthest point in game: No idea what level, but a high score of 48,510.

General gameplay: 20/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 76%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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