Pankapu Review – An unexpected delight

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Pankapu can sit proudly among the greats of the Switch line-up. The FingerGuns review;

Pankapu (Pan-kapu) was a game on the Switch I knew more or less nothing about. It was a game I saw on the release list and its name stood out to me. What is this game? I did some research and sure enough, I was interested.

What I wasn’t expecting was to be seriously impressed, and proclaiming that Pankapu is yet another great reason to invest in a Switch.

I Shall say this now, the story isn’t going to win awards anytime soon, with a tale as old as time ‘beautiful world taken over my evil dudes and only you can save it’ narrative that exists solely to bridge the gap between worlds. There’s a rather lovely hand-drawn prologue which gives you a little bit of background as to what on earth is going on. Essentially, you’re Pankapu and a powerful deity knowing as Iketomi the Hymn of Dreams(!) has created you to save the goshdarn world from these evil-doers known as Nya-Nagis who have escaped from nightmares to attack dreams. Hmm. Still with us?

Good, because it’s great.

The first thing you notice about Pankapu is just how utterly gorgeous it is. The hand-dawn art is sumptuous and full of colour, with the environments jumping out of the game as if you were staring at a painting in an art gallery. Particularly in handheld mode, Pankapu looks stunning on the Switch screen, crisp and clear with no hint of slowdown. I’m a little bit in love with how this game looks and now require all videogames to share in its art style. FIFA, get on it. For pure originality, this is one of the best looking games on the Switch.

Pankapu is an old school platformer with some segments of combat, sprinkled with a nice amount of collectathon. Each level is full of collectibles and upgrades, some which you can’t acquire until you have learned new abilities later on the game, meaning there’s a little bit of backtracking to be done if you want to collect everything. It’s not a huge deal and you’ll find yourself sailing through levels you’ve already done in order to collect as much as you can.

The game starts a little slowly with the early levels being short and a little too simple. It’s not particularly tricky to get through any of them and this did ring some alarm bells in my head. The enemies were far too easy to defeat and the same ones were repeated over and over again. Was this going to be an issue moving forward? Surely it can’t be this simple throughout? It was a question that kept gnawing at me as I played through Pankapu and seemingly steamed through the levels without much consequence. I started to upgrade so I jumped back into old levels to grab my collectible Mudjins. It all seemed far too straightforward and the game, as pretty as it was, wasn’t really presenting a particular challenge.

Then I got to the second world and it kicked my ass. The difficulty jump is jarring and completely out of left-field, but it was welcome (eventually, once I stopped dying). I had learned how to play this game a certain way and by the second world I was more or less useless when it came to certain techniques that I felt like I had mastered. There are new enemies, new abilities (including being able to switch to an archer) which had to be incorporated rather quickly into your play style. It was a bit of a headspinner but it was here I realised that I hadn’t even scratched the surface of Pankapu and there was plenty more to come.

As the game progresses, the first world feels like a million miles away from the rest of the game. The difficulty keeps ramping up, though the mechanics and upgrades make the experience not as punishing as you might expect. It’s certainly not easy and that’s to the benefit of the game as a whole, I do wonder though what perhaps younger players will make of the difficulty jumps after sailing through the first world. How you utilise your new abilities will be tested throughout and you have to stay on your toes. Pankapu has this lovely way of holding your hand and then throwing you off a cliff.

And as a whole, it just works. It can be frustrating but it’s just so much fun, and beautiful to look at that you don’t really notice and enjoy the challenge because you want to see what’s next.

If you ignore the ridiculous story, Pankapu comes highly recommended.

 


Pankapu is out now on Nintendo Switch (reviewed). It’s also available on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Developer: Too Kind Studio
Publisher: Playdius Games

Disclaimer – In order to complete this review, we received a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

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