We all know how penguins struggle. The harsh weather, the hungry leopard seals, National Geographic shoving a camera in your face every time you so much as squawk.

It’s not easy being a penguin, and neither is it easy for Crazy Penguin Party’s uninspired mini-game medley to bear the weight of Digital Chocolate’s increasingly outdated vision of handheld gaming, post-App Store.

Three years ago, Crazy Penguin Party might have earned modest praise as a polished and entertaining Java effort. The problem is, the bar has since been raised by several notches and it’s disappointing to see Digital Chocolate comfortably delivering games that are merely HD versions of the Java titles it was peddling years ago.

Especially given that Digital Chocolate is capable of so much more.

March of the penguins

Crazy Penguin Party sports lovable characters and Digital Chocolate’s trademark attention to detail, but its mix of modes and mini-games just don’t cut it.

There are three modes: Survival, Tournament, and Racing. The main event, Tournament mode, allows you to compete, either with up to three friends (pass the handset) or against the computer in a range of mini-games, with a game board charting progress.

Each time you successfully complete a mini-game, you leave a coloured piece behind on the grid (of which there are several to play). The aim is to get four colours before your opponent(s).

Survival mode merely removes the board element, while Racing is all about churning through mini-games as quickly as possible.

The mini-games themselves are a large part of the problem. They range from the mildly amusing Cliff Hanger (where you tilt the handset to guide a bouncing penguin towards an elevated finish line) to the nigh unplayable Diving (where you have to tap the screen to make an oscillating penguin swim away from a hungry octopus and towards a finish line).

Birds of a feather

Listing the various victories and shortcomings of all the mini-games would take an age, but, ultimately, the bad outweighs the good in a selection that is more often bland and awkward than it is satisfying or inviting. In fairness, the addition of in-game ghost replays of your best performances to compete against is a nice, if relatively insignificant, touch.

The presentation is predictably charming, though a special mention needs to be made of the looped rum-pa-pump fair-ground music that grates before it has scarcely had a chance to arrive.

Crazy Penguin Party is far from terrible. It’s just indicative of a company that seems to be idling in first gear, endlessly recycling old ideas and licenses, rather than grabbing the market by the delicate bits and showing it how fiercely inventive it can be.