A Penny for your thoughts.
Advergaming is nothing new; throughout the years, there have been video games based on products ranging from Kool-Aid and Purina Dog Chow to 7UP and McDonald's, and more recently, iPhone games based on such things as Lipton Brisk Iced Tea. Now joining these ranks is Penny Time, a game produced by and made to promote Penny Skateboards, a product of Australia. Refreshingly, however, Penny Time doesn't to do what most of these others excel at... waste your time.
Penny Time is described as a "side-scrolling action game," though in reality, it feels a little closer to a rhythm game; more Guitar Hero than Sonic the Hedgehog, but a little less demanding. Each stage begins with you freezing time with your magical Penny® skateboard before proceeding to ollie, hippy jump, and power-slide your way through the still, almost Matrix-esque surroundings. You'll frequently come to marks which require a specific one of the three tricks to get through; perform anything else, and you'll be eating pavement.
The tricks are simple to perform; simply slide your finger up, right, or down at the right moment in order to perform the corresponding trick. Unfortunately, while the controls are usually pretty responsive, every now and then they seem to go on the fritz entirely, leading to a failed turn where one shouldn't have happened. Fortunately, you do have the aid of three spirit animals (promise me, just go with it), one of which replenishes your stock of five Penny® skateboards and doubles as a checkpoint. A bit of memorization helps, as the game likes to throw you for a loop with unexpected tricks, like a group of stair-like obstacles or jumps in and out of the background. As for spots where you wipe out (does that term even apply to skateboarding?), a special marker will be placed there to alert you the next time you pass - for extra celabratory awesomess.
The graphics are interesting, employing a sort of non-shaded, non-outlined 3D look. Think back to the DS game Feel the Magic: XX/XY.This might have worked better on a device or platform with a 3D display, though, as some of the elements seem a bit flatter than they were likely intended to be. On a similar note, though it tends to be rare, there are times when you might not notice some of the action markers amidst the surroundings. Speaking of which, there are times where you might notice your own surroundings because you're lost in the game's excellent soundtrack, which sometimes put me into an almost trance-like state.
And while it's no Skate or Tony Hawk, that's perhaps the most surprising thing of all: the fact thatsomewhere along the line, Penny Timestops being an advergame, and starts feeling like a trippy skate session more than worth the price of admission. In a sea full of games shilling pet food and restaurants, you could do a lot worse than to shell out for this wild ride.
- Absorbing, almost trance-like music. Some clever customization options.
- Controls are sometimes unresponsive. Jump markers have an occasional habit of getting obscured by surroundings.