Racing Penguin is yet another cute iOS game targeted primarily towards younger players but enjoyable for a while by anyone of any age. It’s simple graphics and gameplay make Racing Penguin one of the more addictive physics based games, although it is highly reminiscent of certain more famous and complicated PC games involving motorcycles rather than flight-challenged Antarctic birds.
Due to its name, there is a very high disappointment factor here for anyone expecting another version of the flagship 3D Linux game once known as Tuxracer. Sadly, although both games share penguins, snowy slopes, and collecting fish on the way through, this Racing Penguin is set in a 2D environment and merely scrolls from left to right in a traditional platform style.
The only innovation here is the control method which allows the flying penguin to stay airborne or drop at high speed according to its inertia. You simply tap and hold your finger on the screen when momentum is built up from a slope to launch the penguin into the air and keep its wings flapping, and then you release your finger to let the penguin drop back down again at an increasingly higher speed. Repeating this process over and over in a fluid motion becomes something which you feel rather than think about. Eventually this control system allows the penguin to get from one side of the screen to the other. With not very much practice needed, the penguin can pretty much stay airborne after only a couple of slopes and does not need to drop back down even for those tasty herring. It’s all just a tad too easy.
With so many better looking games available for iOS, including ports of Tuxracer, it is at first hard to see exactly what appeal or challenge Racing Penguin offers for anyone other than children. The control method isn’t the greatest and takes a while to get used to when you first start playing. Once mastered, of course, the levels become far too easy to finish, and the threat of being captured by the chasing bear at the bottom of the screen does not appear to be realized.
However, knowing that the game is designed for smaller screens, especially that of the iPhone, makes Racing Penguin a niche product for casual gamers who just want to kill a few minutes of their time while waiting for something else. Playing Racing Penguin on the larger screen of an iPad really makes the bland graphics look somewhat archaic albeit in a suitably iOS manner.
The biggest problem with Racing Penguin is that it gets repetitive very quickly. There’s not much difference to each level other than their length and the number of hills, the slope patterns, and the fish. You are told that a bear is chasing you, but that component is in a separate process displayed under the main playing field and doesn’t really bring anything to the game whatsoever. The bear does not appear on the slopes behind you, growling and clawing in an attempt to catch your penguin. It’s just a static mini-picture moving slightly and not very menacingly after another mini-picture of your comparatively speedy penguin. It therefore seems to be impossible for the bear to catch the penguin anyway even if you intentionally slow the penguin down so that the bear can catch up.
As with all games, Racing Penguin will have its fans and supporters who love it. The physics based control system is something a little bit different which can teach concepts such as inertia and momentum to non-physics minded individuals, but the game itself does not have quite enough to it to make it either enjoyable or memorable.