As someone who grew up on a healthy diet of 3D mascot platformers as a youngster, this new crop of indie platformers has delighted me over the last few years. I just can’t get enough of running and jumping through all those classic platforming worlds looking for collectables, but exploration isn’t all I care about in a 3D platformer. There are plenty of games in the genre that have linear levels I also love to play, like Super Mario 3D World and the Crash Bandicoot series. Penny’s Big Breakaway is looking like it will be one of the very best examples of this style of platformer, and after playing a few hours of it for this preview I’m desperate to continue.
Our hero Penny is a street performer with a dream, to be able to show off her yo-yo skills off to the world. When Eddie the Emperor decides to look for people to perform at the annual talent show Penny is beyond excited to audition, but thanks to the new cosmic string she has attached to her yo-yo disaster strikes. Now with a mind of its own and a weird mouth, the yo-yo bites off Eddie’s clothes and causes an international incident. Escaping the land is the only option now for Penny, and so begins a platforming adventure.
From the moment you gain control of Penny you’ll notice just how many tricks you have at your disposal. Penny’s Big Breakaway isn’t just a game where you can run, jump and attack, here you have a whole arsenal of yo-yo based options at your disposal. To traverse gaps you can use your yo-yo to swing on non-existent grapple points in the air (sort of like in 2022’s Hell Pie) then perform an air dash, and even finish off by gaining a slight upwards boost from hurling your yo-yo in the air. Linking all these moves together takes a lot of getting used to, but the game doesn’t expect you to have those skills immediately.
There are two control methods you can use to control the yo-yo. You can either stick with the more traditional face buttons to unleash your skills, or you can use the right stick for a more direct and intuitive control scheme. Because of this you don’t have a way to control your camera, so it’s fixed as you travel through the levels. I was a little concerned when I first noticed this, but the levels are designed perfectly for this style of platforming and even manage to hide plenty of secrets throughout.
Every level contains six main collectibles, three golden nuts and three people in need of assistance. The nuts are generally just hidden somewhere hard to reach and are used to unlock bonus levels (that I unfortunately wasn’t able to try out in this preview) but the characters who need help require you to actually complete a mini mission as you progress. This can be as simple as taking something to another character in the stage, or as complex as having to perform enough yo-yo tricks in a combo to impress someone. The people you help will be waiting at the end of the stage to watch your street performance (which is essentially a quick time event you do on the goal platform) and will give you extra currency as you walk the dog and go around the world.
I must admit I wasn’t really prepared for quite how many handy uses a yo-yo would have in a video game, but for Penny this child’s plaything can solve almost any problem. You can spin around with it to repel evil penguins or cut the grass, use it to go down a zipline or even attach it to a springy tree to catapult yourself across the map. The creativity is truly impressive, and every single stage has something new and exciting to show you.
On top of that your yo-yo can also be powered up by letting it eat collectibles, which give you incredible new powers. Eating a burger makes the yo-yo massive and able to smash down walls, eating a propeller lets you spin through the air like a helicopter, and chilli peppers let you ride on the back of your yo-yo to cross dangerous terrain at top speed. After playing three hours of Penny’s Big Breakaway I was blown away by the amount of unique powers and platforming obstacles the game had already shown me, and I can only imagine it has even more tricks up its sleeve.
Perhaps more than anything though, what I’m excited to see when Penny’s Big Breakaway releases is how speed-runners play it. There’s a dedicated time attack mode just waiting for those with more time and skill than me to absolutely smash through this game, and with all the moves at their disposal I think some serious magic is going to take place.
Penny’s Big Breakaway is an incredible 3D platformer that I wish I was playing right now. The amount of ways you can use your yo-yo to get around is truly impressive, and the ideas packed into each linear stage never ceased to impress me. If you love colourful platformers as much as I do then this is a game that absolutely should be on your radar, because it’s looking like it could be an all time high for the genre.