Percy’s Predicament is a remarkably challenging game to critique. In some cases, it is nearly appalling in its dreadful presentation, occasionally finicky controls, and oft tedious level design, yet something about it keeps me coming back. The core gameplay, no matter how much the surrounding elements fail to interest, is simply fun.
But that just isn’t enough. All the strengths of the game are inherited from the genre it attempts to be a part of — if you like rolling a ball through a variety of obstacles, collecting items, and reaching the goal before time runs out, you won’t be disappointed. But unfortunately, even the core gameplay has a few issues and, coupled with the utterly unimpressive presentation, it makes for a less than stellar experience.
Let’s start with the visuals. If you’ve seen a screenshot of the game, you know that it doesn’t exactly look good. Fortunately, though, it does get the job done. Its simplistic style and execution doesn’t blow any minds, but neither does it get in the way. This isn’t always the case, though; to my pleasant surprise, the devs did try some pleasing visual additions in later levels and one setting actually impressed. But attempted eye candy comes at a cost — the more complicated the background art, the more likely it is for certain obstacles to not be visible. It caused me to die on multiple occasions from not being able to see an obstacle until it popped in as I ran into it. Needless to say, the added visual effects were not worth the harm to gameplay they caused.
The music, too, was generally unremarkable, aside from a few standout tracks. It dished out repetitive songs that added a kind of slow monotony to a game that, even if often annoying, rarely felt monotonous without the music. At times, I found that turning off sound or playing only on the GamePad with a TV show running in the background actually improved the experience.
The gameplay itself is fairly standard fair. Percy the penguin is stuck inside a ball, and thus, must find all the fish in each level and make it to the end before time runs out. The left stick on the GamePad is used to control the speed and direction. The right stick controls the camera and, considering that it needs constant adjustment in order to make sure Percy is going where you want him to go, this is just as important a tool as actually controlling the penguin directly. The B and ZL buttons are for jumping and the A and ZR buttons are for using a handful of power-ups, like speed, jump, and bounce.
It’s fairly standard fare for the type of game it is. You’ll time out rolling under lasers and around wind generators; you’ll jump over pits and time out rolling through moving blockades. You’ll open doors by stepping on switches, collect countdown stopping clocks, and occasionally use power-ups to add some extra types of challenges.
The problem with this is that I just explained the entire game; every level is some sort of configuration of the same few types of challenges and. while all games are different set-ups of their own variety of trials, this game doesn’t have near enough variety to make it work. As such, most levels feel extremely similar, some later levels actually making me wonder if I had hit replay on accident.
Far more pressing, however, is the issue of the controls. For the most part, they work fine. I was pleasantly surprised by how well Percy handled; stopping and gaining momentum is instinctive. Unfortunately, when it comes to precisely moving in certain directions, the result is not quite so pretty.
The problem is the camera. It is extremely sensitive and takes too long to get it to just the right angle so that you can roll exactly forward. Because the large number of narrow bridges that make an appearance and the generally tight time limits, this becomes a pretty noticeable problem. Control in precise situations is simply too fiddly and leads to a lot of unfair deaths that should have been avoided.
That is the biggest thing that really throws a wrench in calling this a “casual game.” Perhaps it is aimed at kids, and if so, the atrocious presentation wouldn’t be as much of a problem. Yet, if the game is legitimately frustrating due to unfair controls, the casual audience may be the least likely to find much enjoyment from this game. For the most part, the game offers a surprisingly well-balanced challenge. But at times, it’s just too hard to control and leads to annoying, unfair deaths because of how tough it is to get the camera where it needs to be.
In the end, the game absolutely has some redeeming factors and should certainly not be completely dismissed. The core gameplay is solid — quite a few of the challenges are fun to get past and, at times, the backgrounds and music manages to be quite pleasant. But it just isn’t enough to make up for the glaring flaws the game has. Dreadful presentation on all fronts — an annoying camera, extremely repetitive level design, and challenges that are sometimes invisible until you are right on top of them — make the game frustrating. Percy’s Predicament may have a less than universal appeal, but for five dollars, if you like the genre, there are enough redeeming factors to consider jumping in.
- Solid core gameplay
- Fun challenges
- Occasionally impressive music and backgrounds
- Horrible visuals
- Inconsistent music
- Fiddly controls
- Too frustrating (especially for a casual game)