Pen Pen TriIcelon

a game by General Entertainment Co., Ltd.
Platform: Dreamcast
Editor Rating: 7/10, based on 1 review
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Overview

With wacky penguin-like creatures competing in off-the-wall triathlon-style races and over-the-top animations, TriIcelon is a game that is sure to appeal to kids as well as the kid in every adult. Sparky the Pen Pen and his pals are belly sliding down snowy hills, waddling across slippery ice fields, and swimming through arctic waters to grab the coveted silver medals, and you’re in control.

Gameplay

From the almost overly cute animations to the peppy music, it's obvious Pen Pen is targeted at a younger audience. Races are set in one of four different courses, each with their own theme ranging from a Candyland-style town run by a friendly ice cream cone to a haunted house hosted by a spooky mummy. Each course has three paths you can follow, ranging in difficulty. Successfully winning all three base stages in each area will also unlock extra stages with secrets and bonuses. The easiest stage race on each course is clear of obstacles and contains one of each racing stage (waddling, belly sliding, and swimming). The middle difficulty race has the same areas as the easy race, but also adds obstacles and challenges to slow you down. Each area has its own set of creatures to get in your way, as well as special areas like rotating rooms or lagoons with submarines that chase you as you make your way through. The hardest race in each area adds one extra stage (the type varies) as well as more obstacles.

The controls are very straightforward, as they should be for a game aimed at younger kids. During the waddling sections of each race, you guide your character using the joystick. You can also jump over obstacles or charge opponents to knock them off course temporarily. In the belly sliding and swimming sections, you control your direction as above and stroke your flippers or arms to move along. The easiest stages provide on-screen prompts to help you learn the best timing for your strokes for maximum speed. More experienced gamers will quickly figure out the tricks to controlling the characters and may find the action pales quickly.

Winning the races not only moves you closer to unlocking the bonuses and secret races, it also earns you dress-up items ranging from hats and shoes to swords, guns, and scuba gear. You can dress the characters in different outfits as you earn them and they will be worn during the race sections. As near as I could tell, the outfits don’t affect the game play at all, but they are cute (my wife kept making comments about my choice in characters and outfits -- particularly while I was playing the Hippo with pink flowers wearing a feathered hat, but it's a kid's game so she decided, with a smirk, to cut me a little slack).

Graphics & Audio

Far and away the best part of the game is the characters. This is a completely wacky band of toons that will make even the most taciturn gamer smile. The critters in TriIcelon cover a range of species from penguins and walruses to an octopus, a hippo and even a snaggle-toothed shark, each with their own personality quirks and surprises. The animations are wonderful and contain extra details like fins and tails flipping around that add that extra touch. And once you add in the costumes the cute-factor only increases. Each character also has his or her own compliment of vocal comments, although they are limited to simple sounds rather than speech. The backgrounds for the races are also well done -- from the candy houses in Sweets to the snowy huts and straw hats on the snowmen in Jungle the graphics through the racecourses are detailed. I particularly liked the sunken ships and toy submarines that are encountered in the swimming sections of the game. The background music and ambient effects for each area fit with the themes, giving the game the feel of Saturday morning cartoons (the old ones, back when they were still good).

Bottom Line

If you have younger kids I’d highly recommend Pen Pen. The game is lots of fun and the characters are a blast to watch in action. The only real downside is the relatively small number of courses for racing -- more would have given the game long-term staying power. For older players Pen Pen is a must for a fun weekend rental, but its simple gameplay may pale quickly. TriIcelon is often overly silly, but I like it all the same -- it’s cute and just plain fun to play (even if my wife makes fun of me).

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