Game Reviews

Crazy Penguin Catapult

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| Crazy Penguin Catapult
Crazy Penguin Catapult
| Crazy Penguin Catapult

It's funny how people ascribe different personalities to animals. For instance, polar bears are always evil, and so are sea lions and sharks. Dogs are friendly, but their close relations, wolves, are not. Dolphins are happy and mischievous, elephants are a bit clumsy but smart, and penguins like nothing more than to play all day.

Hence the latter's appearance in films (and games) like Happy Feet, where they dance, or Surf's Up, where they get around on surf boards. Presumably the penguins' playful reputation stems from their fondness for diving, as well as their frolics under water. But, hey, they're only doing it so they can munch the heads off fish. That's the bit everyone seems to ignore.

Anyway, Crazy Penguin Catapult is the latest game to choose the flightless birds as its fun-loving animal stars. Not that they're having too much fun here – in a quest to rescue their kidnapped penguin pals from the (evil) polar bears, their only hope is to catapult themselves at the unsuspecting vicious mammals in order to knock them out. (Readers, don't write to tell us polar bears live in the North Pole and penguins in the South – tell publisher Digital Chocolate.)

Each of the levels in the main Campaign game are split into two sections: there's the catapulting part and the diving part. To start with, your helmet-wearing penguins line up and take turns at the catapult, where pressing '5' fires them forwards.

It's not quite as simple as it sounds, though. There's a sweet spot that propels your penguins through a speed ring, making the subsequent diving segment a lot more effective. If you get it completely wrong, a penguin can end up splattered into the ice, meaning you lose one dive opportunity at the bears – which can prove costly.

So, once you've finished the firing, the game cuts to one penguin at a time flying though the air like a black and white torpedo. In this segment, pressing '5' now instigates a dive that needs to be activated at the right point above a polar bear in order to successfully hit it.

Adding a little complexity is the fact each penguin has a limited number of bounces, too, so if your dive is timed right you can take down several bears in one go. To further complicate things, ice occasionally gets in the way and needs to be smashed through to reach the bear beneath it. Resorting to specialised penguins, such as the flaming kind, ensure a more efficient way of getting through the ice, although if you've run out there are also switches on some levels which detonate the obstructions.

Every level is different, with a target number of polar bears to take out in order to progress. Even if you successfully pass a level, though, you can go back to it later to try and win full points. You'll want to in order to make the game last longer – played from start to finish, it's possible to get through it in just half an hour.

But this bit of Crazy Penguin Catapult is clearly aimed at younger gamers, so the easiness of completing it isn't a major problem. And a few different levels are thrown in to vary the action – like bonus collecting stages or where you must rescue one of your caged friends by bombing a 'boss' polar bear.

There's also an additional, more universally appealing, mode to play called Strategy. Without it, the game would feel a little too simple, but its inclusion ensures you don't feel short-changed. Strategy is actually a fun little Risk-based game that will easily while away the hours.

It begins with each square populated by a number of either polar bears or penguins. As the penguins, for example, you need to wipe out all the polar bear squares. You can attack any of the squares surrounding yours but you're only likely to win the subsequent fight by having more penguins on your square that the square you're attacking has bears. Like we said, it's Risk in simplified form but similarly as addictive.

And crucial. If it had just been about the catapulting, we'd have said Crazy Penguin Catapult was a bit weak. It's fun for a while but there's not the sort of underlying depth or high-score chasing found in, say, Digital Chocolate's recent game, Kamikaze Robots.

But the Strategy mode means this is quite a nice package. One that, if you're not sick of games about penguins yet, is certainly worth checking out.

Crazy Penguin Catapult

The first half of the game is better suited to younger players, but the strategy section bulks out Crazy Penguin Catapult into an attractive and pleasantly playable package