Penumbra Collection - PC - Review
If your long-lost father sent you a note telling you not to search for him in an abandoned mine, what would you do? Well, I suppose it would depend on how you felt about your father. In Penumbra: Overture, we can safely assume Philip was close to his dad, or at least has an interest in his fate. So great is his determination, Philip travels to a creepy old mine in Greenland where he combats monsters, madness, darkness, and puzzles all in an effort to learn the fate of his missing parent. Sounds like a typical Hallmark scenario.
The Penumbra Collection contains three games, beginning with Overture. The majority of the gameplay can be split into two elements. The first mechanic you’ll be using is that of puzzle-solving. This is actually quite fun, particularly in the pitch-black, what-the-hell-will-I-see-next environments of Overture. What makes this particularly immersive is that the mouse mimics the hand, so if I want to push a door open, I must literally push forward on the mouse. I realize it doesn’t sound like much on paper, but it really does make the puzzles feel more fluid and natural. The bad news is that the second game mechanic, combat, uses the same elements. Taking a swipe with a melee weapon using the mouse may sound fun, but the weapons (whether intentionally or not) feel heavy and sluggish. For this reason, players will likely favor stealth tactics whenever possible. Mysterious voices and scrawled documents help to keep the story going, if you don’t mind a bit of reading to complement your puzzle-solving. Of course you won’t mind that; you’re a PC gamer, and that makes you an indisputable genius. The soundtrack keeps the hairs standing on end, but the graphical power of the game is a bit underwhelming. Overture might not be a very old game, but it’s important to remember that this was the product of a small, independent development studio. It is not Crysis in the dark. Overture’s ending will leave players wanting more; fortunately, the Collection allows the next chapter to be just a few clicks away.
The Collection’s second offering is Penumbra: Black Plague. Rather than finding a way to repair the clumsy combat of the first game, the developers seem to have decided to remove most of the combat situations entirely. I suppose this is preferable to extending the combat, so you won’t have to worry about enemies nearly as frequently in this follow up. This is probably Black Plague’s strongest point, as it allows greater focus on puzzle solving and navigating the haunting caverns throughout the game. This means greater use of the physics system, and an overall improved experience for the player. Again, there is just something about rummaging through drawers that is more enjoyable when you are physically pushing and pulling them around. While the first title might help to flesh out the storyline a bit, it isn’t a necessary prerequisite for enjoying Black Plague. Audio is once again far superior to the visuals, with drab geometry and low resolution surfaces feeling very much out of place in such a genuinely frightening game.
The third and final game in Penumbra Collection is Requiem. Here lies something which can certainly be considered an excellent puzzle-based adventure game, although its place within the collection makes it feel a bit awkward. The game settings also serve to reinforce this bizarre title within the series (even the voices are different). Story elements appear to have taken a backseat, and that’s a real shame, because it was a major draw and incentive for player progress. With characters seemingly loses their minds, there should have been greater potential for storytelling. Gameplay is largely the same, but playing around with the physics and puzzles has become the primary activity. Players annoyed with frequent attacks from dogs and zombies will find Requiem to be much more to their liking. There is little to speak of in terms of graphical developments. This game, like the others, sounds much better than it looks. Still, Requiem functions for what it is at the core: a pleasant, puzzle-solving spookfest. The game is still on the easy side, but noticeably shorter than the previous installments.
All combined, the Penumbra Collection won’t quite get you to the twenty hour mark that some players arbitrarily seek. It doesn’t have much depth to speak of, but the accessibility and fun of the puzzle-solving is something even non-adventure gamers can enjoy. Having a good sound setup and a dark room to yourself are definitely going to make this game a memorable experience. Admittedly, many of the game’s thrills are of the cheap, startling variety. Interesting mechanics and an eerie atmosphere create a distinction for the Penumbra Collection that makes it a good buy, even if the experience is a brief one.
Review Scoring Details for Penumbra: Collection
The interactive physics really enhance gameplay, rather than simply making things look good. If only the combat could be fixed.
This is not “cutting -edge”, but it gets the job done.
An impressively spooky aural experience.
This is a generally quick and easy set of games, but satisfying nonetheless.
The puzzles are very nicely executed, though the story could be better. Any game that lets you throw ketchup earns respect in my book.
Simple, scary, and satisfying. Aside from object collection, there’s little in the way of replay value, but Penumbra Collection is an enjoyable romp while it lasts.