Pankapu is a new action-adventure platformer (quite the mouthful!) from Too Kind Studios that released on September 21, 2016. The name is indeed strange, but that strangeness is very befitting of the dream world in which the game takes place. Omnia, the world of dreams, is the setting for this wonderful little indie adventure, and that dream setting has allowed the game’s creators to go all out in terms of giving the game a wonderful, vivid visual appeal and strange, otherworldly creatures and locations.
The game opens with a little girl having a nightmare and her father offering to read her a story to help her calm down. The story he reads her is the story of Pankapu, a “dreamkeeper” who was created to fight off the nightmarish creatures that had invaded the land of dreams. Thus, the narrator for the game is the child’s father, describing the events we see as the player as if they’re being read from a book to his young child.
At its core, Pankapu is a vibrant adventure game that consists of 2D platforming through a series of diverse stages. The game presents you with a world map, allowing you to travel to previously visited areas as you desire (if you wish to go back and try to get places you could not reach before or find items you may have missed) and giving you a semblance of progress as you work your way through the game’s story. Each area has a goal of some sort for you to meet, as well as items and upgrades you can collect along the way. In many ways, the game actually reminds me of the Wonder Boy series, which itself drew quite a bit from The Legend of Zelda. Combat is performed primarily with a sword and shield, and blocking is pretty important to your survival. You also start the game with three red gems worth of health, but as you progress, you can find gem pieces that, much like heart pieces in the Zelda games, can combine and provide you with an additional unit of health.
Although it’s easy to assume that a 2D game won’t be graphically intensive, Pankapu packs an awful lot of detail into it’s backgrounds and overall game world. The colors are all very vivid, and the environment just pops with details. Running the game at 4K resolution really showed off these aspects and did the game justice, I think, and thankfully performance at 4K was quite smooth and pleasant. For some reason, there’s a bit of motion blur built into the game and no setting to remove it, and while I found it a little distracting in a couple spots, some people might argue that it gives the game an even more dreamlike quality.
Another thing I should praise about Pankapu is its soundtrack. For me, the measure of a musical score is whether or not I find myself humming the tunes or getting them stuck in my head. It’s possible for a song to be good by most standards and yet be forgettable, but here I felt like the music not only fit very well with the stages the tracks were assigned to, but that they were memorable enough for me to have them looping around in my head some hours later! This could be because the music was composed by Ganaé and Hiroki Kikuta of Secret of Mana fame. Also, the voice acting (mainly the part of the narrator) is well-done too. The other characters speak in a language we can’t understand (which is translated for our benefit), so these characters are voiced but you won’t be able to understand what they’re talking about without the subtitles.
The story jumps between the dream world and reality, and the game also offers a pretty robust skill tree to grow Pankapu’s abilities as you play.
Pankapu should offer you around three to five hours worth of gameplay in this current release, but it’s worth pointing out that the game is episodic, with the second episode due out sometime in early 2017.
I’ve enjoyed my time with Pankapu: The Dreamkeeper and am looking forward to seeing what Episode 2 has in store for our hero. Right now, though, you can pick the game up on Steam for just $4.99 (or $8.99 if you want to pre-purchase Episode 2 as well).
Overall, beyond a couple minor flaws, I felt like Pankapu was a charming, solidly-fun experience and I have no problem giving it a grade of: