The penumbra is the area where light and dark meet. Penumbear is a stuffed teddy bear with a rather fetching scarf.
The wordplay of the title refers to the fact that the cute and cuddly hero of this deceptively fiendish iOS platformer is capable of walking on shafts of light, and controlling these illuminations is central to the gameplay.
On the surface, Penumbear is a fairly basic platformer. You have virtual buttons to control left and right movement, and a 'jump' button to execute leaps. Double-jumps are possible, and a swift double-tap in either direction will trigger a sprint.
Combine this with a double-jump and you can cover larger distances - all fairly standard stuff if you consider yourself to be a platform game expert.
Leap of faith
Penumbear becomes a little more interesting when you factor in the various lights which appear around each of the game's 100 levels. By tapping coloured buttons you can toggle these on and off. Sometimes you'll need to switch lights on to create platforms - your avatar has the ability to walk on the shadows that appear, reaching previously inaccessible parts of the level.
Other times, you'll need to deactivate the lights to pass through, or use them to inflict damage on nearby enemies. Some lights blink on and off, forcing you to flex your platforming muscles and get your jumps timed perfectly.
While the objective of Penumbear is to reach the exit on each level, you'll find it's rarely as simple as that. Some doors require you to collect magical fireflies, and these are usually placed far apart in each stage. You can also collect Bonus Bears, which can be used to skip particularly tricky levels.
Shine a light
Penumbear's platforming action is solid, and the game controls very well indeed. Making pixel-perfect jumps demands skill, but it's forgiving in places; for example, if you bear lands just on the edge of a platform, he "sticks" to it briefly, giving you the chance to avoid falling to your doom.
Later levels are taxing almost to the point of becoming frustrating, but the appealing atmosphere - accentuated by some excellent music and moody graphics - maintains your interest regardless.
Penumbear isn't for casual players, despite its adorable protagonist. The gameplay is downright sadistic at times, but seasoned professionals who remember the platform classics of yesteryear will appreciate the stern challenge and pure mechanics.