January 22, 2019
Archives  Previews  Penumbra: Overture  

Adventure & RPG
Release Date

Penumbra: Overture
August 31, 2007 | Michael Wuerthele

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Anyway, you make the trip to Greenland, follow the directions to the property and there it is. A Lost-like hatch in the middle of nowhere, beckoning you to enter, as they always do. Of course, the hatch is stuck, and youíre freezing to death. Thus begins the travails with the physics engine. Frantically, turn the hatch wheel, grab a stick, torque the hatch, grab a rock, beat the wheel! Quickly, before you freeze to death! Oh, wait. Iím just clicking. That didnít work. How about if I hold the rock with the mouse button down and swing the mouse quickly? THAT worked. The hatch is the first taste you get of the physics engine. No simple clicking, no hunting for hotspots. If you want to hit something with a rock HARD, you have to move the mouse quickly. If you donít, you just sort of touch the rock to the hatch.

Graphically, Penumbra: Overture is detailed enough, and has enough niceties that go hand in hand with the physics engine to make for interesting play. Hold still long enough in a dark area and the screen tints blue. Not only does this make the roomís contents more visible presumably due to some pupil dilation, but itís also an indicator that youíre hidden from the various nasties that lurk about the level. Now, Penumbra: Overture isnít a game youíd play if you want to show off the amazing color palette that the Macintosh is capable of, as everything is drawn in deep organic shades, as befitting an underground lair or mineshaft. Itís dark too. Make sure youíve got your gamma set so you can actually see in the game! That said, the gameís showcase is itís interactivity, and donít be turned off by what you may think is substandard graphics for your gaming pleasure.

Interactivity is the key to violence perpetration as well. The hatch area is populated by freaking humongous spiders, strange undead-esque dogs, and Tremors-style giant worms, and you as Joe Random from the suburbs of wherever you came from has zero combat experience. Remember the rock from earlier? Hope youíve still got it, or something like it the first time that dog pops up. Penumbra:Overture gives new meaning and panic to the initial rat-slaying in adventure games! Boy, did that dog thing kill me a lot. Ultimately, I learned about the whole blue-screen tint I mentioned above, and got farther with stealth than with mayhem. Itís not that itís not possible to bludgeon the critter to death, itís just clumsy with the interface to do so. Turning wheels and pushing crates around arenít where I wanted the Wii controlsí precision; itís here, sending nasties to their grave, that I wanted it. The mouse is clumsy for this purpose, and Iíd like to see that addressed before the game ships.

Penumbra: Overture makes you ďEnter the dark world of a three part horrorĒ. Grammar problems aside, the preview that I got to play had promise. Available now for Windows and Linux and soon for the Macintosh for only $19.99, it very well could be a better choice for your gameplay dollar than another more casual game should your tastes run to the non-conventional aspects of itís play. No, as it stands itís not perfect, but itís a great demonstrator of what a small team with limited resources can develop in a short period of time.

Penumbra: Overture
Developer: Frictional Games


Archives  Previews  Penumbra: Overture