Pankapu review (PS4)

We’re reviewing Pankapu, a platformer published by Playdius which was inspired by the classic arcade-like platformers of the eighties and nineties but features plenty of modern touches. It’s available for consoles and PC – we looked at the PS4 version.

Pankapu actually came out back in 2016, but it was only on PC and it was merely “episode 1”. The current console release features both episodes of the game – the second of which is now also available for PC users. Since the game emphasized its narrative plotlines, it’s nice to see the full package being released now so that players can reach the game’s conclusion.

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Story-wise, Pankapu evokes memories of eighties movie (and book) classic The Neverending Story. Most of the game takes place inside the dreams of a boy called Djaha’rell, who is suffering from a tragic incident. In his dreams, he gets to escape and be Pankapu, a brave hero who develops (his skills) over time in an action platformer.

The actual gameplay is definitely retro-inspired, with a modern cartoon-like visual style. Looking at the level design, it’s more Monster Boy than Rayman – which also goes for the game’s pacing. Pankapu has to cleanse the world of Omnia of evil, and as you do so you also start to reveal fragments of Djaha’rell’s own story. It’s a lengthy platformer because playing through the entire adventure took me close to eight hours, which is excellent for a game at this price point.

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Platforming is a mix of jumping and combat (again, closer to Monster Boy than Rayman), and there are plenty of collectibles to find as well if you feel like exploring some of the less obvious corners of each level. These aren’t just cosmetic or fun (like the journey entries you gain) – gathering them upgrades your health, skills and powers as well.

Defensive play is encouraged over button mashing, as blocking attacks will let you charge your magic meter which in turn can unleash stronger attacks. The diversity of these attacks will grow over time as well, especially when you start unlocking the alternate forms you can take. You start off as a sword-wielding knight, but before long you’ll be able to transform into a ranger with the ability to engage in ranged combat, using a bow and arrow.

Pankapu is a lovely platformer well worth checking out. Its level design isn’t as intricate as it could have been (this is where Rayman is a good reference), but it’s a tale full of charm with fun gameplay to back it up.

Score: 7.8/10

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