- Pengo -




DVD of the Week

Pengo - October 11, '99 by Dorsola

Say hello to one of the most popular "My First Emulator" games of all time. Pengo, the first popular game by Sega, made its debut way back in 1982 and still lives as one of the funnest games of all time. It's simplicity at its best - not too hard, but not too easy either.
You play Pengo, a little red (or blue, depending on which ROM set you got) penguin whose job is to rid the world of the evil Sno-Bees. Sno-Bees, in the meantime, are intent on destroying Pengo. Your classic good vs. evil video-game plot. (And in case you're wondering, yes, Sno-Bees do look exactly like the Hostess Sno-Ball candy treats, except they have eyes and occasionally legs. :P)
Each round takes place in an arena filled with ice blocks, arranged in sort of a maze. Pengo can push ice blocks in 4 directions, sending them sliding until they hit something, or dissolve them if they can't be moved. To defeat Sno-Bees, you simply squash them with an ice block, or you can confuse them by pushing on the wall if they happen to be next to it. A maximum of four Sno-Bees are on the screen at any time, but as you defeat them, more of them will emerge from the ice blocks, hatching from eggs buried inside. A round is clear when all Sno-Bees have been eliminated. At the end of the round, you are given bonus points depending on how long it took you, and you're occasionally treated to a little dance the penguins put on for you to the tune of "Ode To Joy." Also, during a round, you can score extra bonus points by lining up a set of "Diamond Blocks" (which can't be dissolved). Putting all three of them together in a line will award you 10,000 bonus points if done in the middle of the playfield, or 5,000 if along the edge.
Going on to sound: Pengo's sound and music is slightly more advanced than the average for the time. Instead of your usual square and triangle waves, white noise, beeps, blips, etc., Pengo employed some more advanced sound-effects that, while repetitive, aren't terribly bad. Several versions of Pengo (and a bootleg clone called "Penta") were released. The one I always played in the arcade contained some silly (and loud) music for while you were actually playing. But the version I was introduced to in the various single-game emulators (and now MAME) actually has a very nice BGM rendition of the more popular song "Popcorn" (which was performed by a group called Hot Butter, in case you didn't know ;). For this, I give Pengo an 8 for sound.
Graphics, on the other hand, aren't really anything to write home about. All of the in-game objects (Pengo, Sno-Bees, ice blocks, etc) are about the same size, and the color schemes are pretty simplistic. The Sno-Bees change color each round, but otherwise you're looking at the same stuff each and every time through. This tends to reduce the game's replay value as well, but like PacMan, it's one of those games that keeps you thinking "I wanna beat that high score."
Pengo scores a perfect 10 for performance. It's a simple game, but it's emulated perfectly in MAME, with absolutely no slow-downs that I can see. Sound is perfect, and controls work fine too, since all you had originally was a joystick and a "Push" button. So overall, this game is definitely a keeper - a great, simple game that's a lot of fun and should appeal to just about anyone. :)
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1999 EmuViews