Wednesday, 13 August 2014

NES Platform Games #6

Yume Penguin Monogatari (1991)
By: Konami Genre: Platform / Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES
Also Available For: Nothing

Penka turns her back on her bulky beau...
There are several kinds of animals that are always welcome in video games. One obvious example is monkeys but I've come to realise in recent years that another one is penguins. I can't personally recall a single bad game starring a penguin so I had high hopes for this odd example which was released only in Japan by Konami. Accordingly it features their usual flapper known as Penta (of Antarctic Adventure amongst others) who it seems has let himself go somewhat since his earlier exploits. Indeed, the once-athletic penguin is now a portly waddling behemoth whose beloved girlfriend, Penka, has just dumped him for evil top hat-wearing rival, Ginji. Our hero doesn't take his misfortune lying down though, and quickly resolves to get back into shape and win Penka back. This involves collecting as much 'Fat-B-Gone' as possible which Ginji and his 'gang' have stashed across the six stages that now lie between Penta and Penka. And so begins the 'Story of the Dream Penguin'.

Medium-sized Penta is surrounded by bugs...
At first you may think Penta's epic quest takes the form of a standard platformer but that's actually only half the story. After each platform stage, you see, comes a shoot 'em up equivalent! It's actually quite similar in that respect to a recent favourite of mine, Robocco Wars, which came out the same year, but Penta is a very different kind of character to R10 (the robot star of Taito's game). He starts the game in his porkiest form and accordingly moves rather slowly, with his only attack coming in the form of a cumbersome belly-flop. Collecting bottles of the slimming agent, however, will gradually move the marker on his 'fat-meter' and it doesn't take long before he assumes a less-weighty form. This allows him to move faster and he can also aim a kick at enemies rather than enveloping them with his girth. Collecting yet more bottles will eventually see him reach his slimmest form at which point he gets even quicker and can belch a longer-range attack.

Flying through the first shmuppy stage...
Contact with enemies will quickly move the fat-metre back to the undesirable end though, and that means reverting back to fatter forms. Other items to look out for include clocks, which boosts the time limit, an 'H' icon which adds a Doraemon-style head propeller enabling Penta to fly (although he'll lose it if takes damage), an 'A' icon which acts much like a smart bomb, killing all enemies on-screen, and an 'M' icon which gives him temporary invincibility. All this stuff can occasionally be found lying around but is more usually found after killing enemies. There are also various foodstuffs dotted about the place (or thrown at you!), but these should all be avoided as they increase Penta's weight, and this is definitely something to avoid as, not only does it make him slower (and time is very much of the essence here), but you can't even pass the exit at the end of the stage if he's too fat!

The hills have eyes! (well, the pyramid at least)
The time limit is pretty tight too, even without the burden of a slow Penta. You will usually need to collect a few clocks to reach the end of a stage in time anyway, but each time you take damage from one of Ginji's goons you lose a whopping ten seconds as well as lose some progress on the fat-o-meter, and falling in water sends it all way back to the wrong end! This is all just the platform stages though, the shooty ones are a bit simpler, merely requiring you guide Penta in his stumpy little plane to the end of the auto-scrolling stage while taking out any enemies you see fit with its pea-shooter gun. The platform and shmup stages do have a few similarities though. They both end in a boss fights for one thing (except the first stage for some reason), and they both offer a reward for emptying the fat-meter entirely - temporary invincibility on the platform stages, a cannon upgrade on the shooty ones (the latter of which is much easier to obtain).

It's easy to miss with a belly-flop...
The stages are mostly interesting, though, regardless of how Penta travels through them. They are: Waterfall (the standard grassy first stage), Fly The Unfriendly Skies (a fairly uneventful flight through the clouds), Giant Cake (a very jumpy journey up a sumptuous dessert, and a very short one if you have the 'H' power-up!), The Desert (a flight through a spooky pyramid), The Beach (a very scenic stage which includes a pirate ship), and Finale (a slippery ice stage which has platform and shooty sections). The enemies on them are mostly what I can only assume are local resident creatures - stuff like bugs and birds respectively. Whether they're naturally evil or have just been corrupted by Ginji I can't say but his actual henchmen are fewer in number, although larger in size and more dangerous to make up for it. None of them are particularly tough though - all except the bosses will fall to a single hit and (on the platform stages) you can even stand on top of them!

Scary ghouls inhabit the pyramid...
As mentioned, the time limit can be more problematic than the enemies but this is still a very short game. With some practice it could be bested in less than twenty minutes which is pretty weak, even for an 8-bit game but it's a nice enough looking affair. There's a little flicker and the backgrounds get a bit repetitive but the foregrounds and sprites are great, particularly the bosses and Penta himself, and the presentation is good too, including a very short tutorial. It even has a twist ending! The music and spot effects are pleasant as well which does make this a very appealing package overall, just a rather short lived one, which, considering it's a mixture of probably my two favourite genres, is a bit of a shame (for me at least). I would say that I enjoyed the platform stages here more than the shoot 'em up ones too - it's definitely a platformer, first and foremost, with the shmuppy bits feeling more like an add-on to me, but it's all great fun while it lasts.

RKS Score: 7/10

Special Note: Thanks to fellow penguin-game-appreciator, Bryan of The Gay Gamer, for recommending this amusing game. Check out his great blog here.


  1. So glad to hear you liked it, Simon--at least for the most part! It is a shame that it's so short, of course--especially given the prices actual copies of the game can fetch on the Internet these days--but I'm mostly OK with that. I'd rather it be short and sweet than long and bloated, to be honest. Anyway, thanks for the great review (as always) and for the kind shout-out at the end :)

  2. No worries good sir! :) I really liked the platform sections - if the game was, say, 6-8 stages of those I'd probably have given it 9/10, but the shooting stages are weaker in my view, and the short length of the game means the platforming only lasts about 10 minutes in total - not enough for me. Thanks for making me aware of it though, it was definitely worth playing through :)