Here is the latest penguin collectible – and the latest game release – in my possession: Penguin Wars! Released in the west by Dispatch Games and developed by City Connection and Hamster Co. for Sunsoft, the game is available for both PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
The story mode tells the story of Riley, a penguin who wants to travel to Gira Gira Land and become the greatest Gira Gira player of all time. So, Riley trains up, creates his own Gira Gira truck and sets off on a road-trip. On his way, Riley meets a curious cast of critters who, after a challenge, join his Gira Gira team – and the journey.
The sports Gira Gira is a curious mix of dodgeball and arcade action. The goal of the game is to knock down the opponent by throwing Gira Gira balls. However, you can throw the balls only straight or in 45 degree angles – and more often than not, the game comes down to well-placed ricochet shots. On top of that, each of the characters have their own special moves and quirks, making things more interesting. And it wouldn't be an arcade sports game without field-specific hazards – like bombs, spike balls and Breakout-style blocks.
Just by looking at the gameplay, some folks might fight the presentation of the game – the cartoon style with super-in-your-face colour palette and the super-catchy music – to be seriously distracting. I found it to be the exact opposite. The audio-visual overload forces you to concentrate harder from the start, aiding in getting into the game. This isn't the first time overtly flashy audio-visuals have been used this way, as everyone who has played Lumines or Space Invaders Extreme can attest to.
I really like this one, not just for the characters and presentation, but the surprisingly tactical nature of the gameplay. Sure, you can get past the first world by just spamming the throws, but soon enough you have to start making each shot count. I can only imagine this game getting more intense with friends, but by the time of writing this, I didn't get the change to test the multiplayer out. Both local and network multiplayer are supported – and Switch version allows local on-the-go play as well from a top-down perspective.
I've been waiting to get my hands on this game for quite some time. Not only is the premise just my kind of thing, but Penguin Wars is a historical artefact of sorts. Though this is the first time the game series has seen an official release in the west on home consoles, in Japan it has a long and established legacy; the original arcade game was released by UPL Co in 1985.
In the west, Penguin Wars is published by Dispatch Games and if you wish the get your flippers on a physical version, just head to readytodispatch.com. As of writing this, the launch editions for both PS4 and Switch are still available – these ship with a bandcamp download code for the soundtrack album (in all possible formats).