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Penguin Adventure Review (Yume Tairiku Adventure, 夢大陸アドベンチャー)

Penguin Adventure Review Summary

Penguin Adventure, or Yume Tairiku Adventure, as it was called in Japan, is considered one of the best MSX games, if not the best. There are many reasons for that. It has all sorts of gameplay elements, which makes it ahead of its time, like various stages, enemies, items. It has multiple endings & all sorts of secrets. The visuals & soundtracks are spectaculars. Giving how it was on MSX, not many people in some countries may have heard of it, or just know it’s Hideo Kojima’s first game, and that’s it.

It is my favorite game ever. I played it countless of times, and memorized almost everything in it. That’s one of reasons I am writing this review, to introduce this game to everyone around the world who may have missed it otherwise.

Pros Of Penguin Adventure

  • Has a lot of replay ability.
  • Multiple endings.
  • Many shortcuts & things to discover.
  • Multiple enemies and game mechanics.
  • Diversified stages, with a unique soundtrack for each stage.
  • Great visual & soundtracks.

Cons Of Penguin Adventure

  • May be considered difficult for some players.

General Information

  • Platform:- MSX
  • Release Date (Japan):- 1986
  • Release Date (Europe):- 1987
  • Genre(s):- Platform, action-adventure.
  • Developer:- Konami.
  • Publisher:- Konami.

The Story

The penguin princess, Penguette hime, is gravely ill, and in order to save her, the Golden Apple is needed. To get that Apple, Penta, the brave penguin, is set on a journey to get the apple. Here’s the itinerary of the journey:-

It’s a simple but romantic story, and easy to relate to. It tells us that games don’t need a complicated story to be good. I think that’s why I liked Shadow Of The Colossus, which had a kinda similar story.

Game Mechanics & Gameplay

Penta starts his journey, you have 24 stages to go through. That stages have very diversified environments, they range from the woods, river, dessert underwater, snow, snowy woods, a cave & icy ocean. You collect fish down the line, the fish are used to buy items from a fisher. Some of the items make the game easier, like allowing you to shoot enemies, run faster, jump higher or control your jump better. Some of them protect you from some enemy.

There are 2 kinds of shops, one that sells you items for their fair price, while the other sells them for double the price. There’s a 3rd seller that appears in some stages that gives you an item for free. You can control your speed using the up & down arrows. You can go as fast as you can to finish the stages quickly, or slow down to make it easier to avoid the enemies.

To make things easier, there are also 4 Power ups:-

  • The purple heart, which gives you points. Collecting 50,000 posts gives you extra life (there are many other ways of collecting points in the game).
  • The green heart, which adds 50 seconds to the timer.
  • The blue heart, which allows you to fly on the top of a cloud. This is a bit tricky to master, but it’s nice for a challenge.
  • The yellow heart, which makes you invincible. This is the most popular power-up.

The Stages

As I just mentioned, the stages are quite diversified, and gives you an idea of what sort of environments Penta had to go through to reach his destination. Each stage has its own soundtrack that fits it.

Once you reach the second half of the game, you will notice that the stages themes are reused, but mostly not in a way that makes it boring.

The first few stages are quite easy. The first two stages have no enemies at all, which gives the player the chance to get used to the game. As you continue your adventure, the stages get more intense, and the distance you have to travel to reach your destination increases as well. The game is quite difficult to finish the first time, but then it gets easier the more you replay it. There’s a higher difficulty level for in case you wanted more challenge, where boulders appear earlier in the game, and the location of pits & other things are different than the lower difficulty.

There’s a bonus stage where Penta go up to space. It gives you a chance to collect fish & even some extra lives. The stage is 100% safe, as you simply return to the ground if you died. Whether you died or not, the distance remained in the stage you’re playing will decrease, to show that you traveled some distance while you were up there.

The Enemies, There Are Many Of Them

There are various enemies that try to intercept you as go down your mission, from slime balls, bats to even meteors that fall from the sky. Each enemy attacks you in a certain pattern. Knowing the pattern will help you evade the attack, and it’s not hard at all. The thing is, there are times where you have to evade 2 or 3 attacks at once, and sometimes you have to avoid 2 attacks, then another attack that come right after. There’s no explanation why these enemies attack you, nature doesn’t work that way, so let’s just say this is a gameplay mechanic, and nothing more.

Once you think you’re done with some stages, and have successfully avoided all these attacks. You sometimes have to face an even more formidable enemy:- The dinosaur, which blocks your way, and doesn’t allow you to continue your journey, but our Penta has to deaf him, right?

Mini Game Lottery

If you’re buying items from the fisher, but in dire need for few fish to buy the item(s) you want, there’s a lottery machine mini-game that could help you increase your money/fish.

    • If you got one cherry, the machine will return your money.
    • If you got two cherries, your money will double.
    • If you got 4 cherries, your money will quadruple.
    • Get 3 matching shapes, and you will get up to 20 times your money.

If you’re lucky, or if you’re too good at timing the machine, you will be able to get enough money to buy all the items in the game, or you could lose all your fish. There’s also a time-consuming way to game the machine, with a more chance of you gaining fish than losing.

Tons Of Hidden Things To Discover

Besides having all sorts of mechanics. There are many hidden things to discover, from shortcuts that allows you to skip multiple stages, which makes it possible to finish the game faster (the game is harder that way though). You can finish the game a stage at the time, and make things easier on you, or try to be adventurous. There are also cheats that makes all the items disappear once you die, which is how many of Knoami’s other games like Fire Bird & Knightmare work by default.

The game has multiple endings. While that’s a very common thing in today games, That’s not so common for an old game, like Penguin Adventure.

And if all that wasn’t enough, there’s a glitch in the game that makes the game goes awry. It causes the boss to appear underwater, or in the ocean stage, or some of the water stages enemies to appear on desert. I don’t think that was meant to happen. I think the game’s tendency to not change the environment if you used certain shortcuts caused that to happen.

Great Soundtrack & Visuals

Penguin Adventure has a quite good soundtracks that matches the stage’s atmosphere. The soundtracks range from spooky to hopeful. The simplicity of the 3 sounds chip in the MSX allows the soundtracks to give off some good vibes. If you’re familiar with the Tandy sound chip or the Commodore SID chip, then you have a good idea how 3-sounds chips feels like.

The game shows some great visuals, Penta’s shade become smaller whenever he jumps. There are a lot of sound effects that adds to the game. Every time you hit an enemy with a gun, the sound effect gives the feeling of “get away from me”. Every time a meteor fall, or a bat attacks you, a suitable sound effect is used.

The Beginning Of All This, Antarctic Adventure

While it can stand as a stand-alone title, Penguin Adventure is a sequel to another game called Antarctic Adventure, where you play as Penta, and you’re supposed to reach your destination before the time runs out.

Just like Penguin Adventure, it shows you a map showing your journey, which is much shorter:-

The game features the same mechanics of Penguin Adventure. You collect fish along the line, but you don’t buy items with it. The game doesn’t have items in the first place. Besides the fish, there are green flags you collect as well. You can control your speed to make it easier to avoid the pits that gets in your way.

To be honest, the game is a bit monotonous, you simply walk to no end, the music reflects that monotonousness. The stages are almost the same. There’s only one enemy, the sea lion, running into it causes you to stumble. Time is the only real enemy here, you either each your destination or not. Once you reach your destination, which is always a hut, a different flag is raised above the hut. It makes for a good way to learn the flags of different countries:-

It’s not exactly a terrible game, I have seen much worse old games, but you’re unlikely going to like it if you played Penguin Adventure first. It’s nice that someone inside Konami took the time to create it, and to build & expand on it to create the sequel we all like. The game is available on the NES as well.

How To Get Any Of The Endings

There’s a simple way to get any of the endings. Since you may want to figure it out on your own, you can skip this section.

The ending you get depends on how many times you pause the game (using the F1 key). If you paused an odd number of times, you get one ending. If you paused it an even number of times, you get the other ending. I tried that on an emulator, and I managed to get both ending after playing the game once, thanks to the power of quick save/load.

Kojima’s First Game

Most people knew Penguin Adventure as the first game Hideo Kojima has worked on. I don’t know how much Kojima contributed to it, but he could be the reason the game turned out the magnificent way it is.

There are even gaming sites that jokes about Penguin Adventure being Kojima’s attempt of delivery, way before Death Stranding was released, but I personally don’t find these jokes funny.

Penguin Adventure Remake

Just like many famous MSX games. Penguin Adventure has got a fan-made remake by Kotai. Not only Kotai recreated the game from scratch, but they added some new things that were not in the original games.

Some of these things are:-

    • Multiplayer & online gameplay.
    • New bosses
    • Bonus stages
    • Stages editor
    • Remade soundtracks, and some of them are magnificent.

While I have one or two complains about it, like how collision detection doesn’t feel perfect. I really loved going through the remake. I say Kotai did a really good job with the remake.

You can check out & download Penguin Adventure Remake from here

A Final Word On Penguin Adventure

Penguin Adventure was really ahead of its time. It managed to offer some interesting visuals & atmosphere, but without sacrificing the gameplay or being boring, which is something many modern games suffer from. For an old game, it is sure a very packed game. It’s not surprising that it needed a huge cartridge with 128 kb storage (also known as MegaROM), which was huge at the time. It gives you an idea how things were back when Konami used to make great games, and was one of the best gaming companies ever, if not the best.

Giving how Penguin Adventure was on MSX, a system that wasn’t popular in US (unlike the Commodore 64 & Vic-20), there are many people there who never knew it existed, or only knew it as Kojima’s first project. If you want to play a first-class retro game, then go for it, it’s totally worth playing.

I hope you find my Penguin Adventure review useful, and see you again in another article.

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