Penny’s Big Breakaway Review – A Swing and a Miss


Penny's Big Breakaway

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Penny's Big Breakaway is an incredible revolution in indie platforming, delivering a free-flowing and fun movement system, charming visuals, and a fantastic soundtrack that keeps you coming back. Unfortunately, a mountain of small flaws holds it back, but it could have been a perfect game with a bit more time.

Score 8
  • Incredibly fun, fast, and fluid gameplay that controls immaculately.
  • Inspired, popping visual style that is usually a five-star course for the eyes.
  • Great soundtrack that I could listen to for hours on end.
  • Buggy, with something unintended happening to me almost every half hour.
  • Occasionally unpolished, with certain things looking rough.
  • May not work and crash on some PC's, capped to 30 FPS on Switch, with numerous issues on all platforms.

Christian Whitehead is perhaps the best example of a fangame creator to a full-on game developer pipeline, starting with a Sonic the Hedgehog fangame, then making ports of Sonic games officially, then creating a brand new Sonic game, and now onto a wholly original game with his own studio, this game being Penny’s Big Breakaway.

Needless to say, as a lifelong Sonic fan who has been following CW’s work for quite some time now, I’d been super jazzed to see what Evening Star was making ever since the company was formed. So, seeing Penny’s Big Breakaway in a Nintendo Direct excited me, especially since the game looked like an incredibly original and enjoyable 3D platformer.

In IGC’s Review of Penny’s Big Breakaway, I’ll be bringing a critical eye to every aspect of this game, comparing it against what its inspirations do, and bringing attention to its unfortunately prevalent flaws while showing its incredible heights. That being said, I don’t mean to string you along, so let’s roll right into this review, shall we?

Walking The Dog

In this game, you get to ride around everywhere on your yo-yo, which is just objectively cool. – Image by Monica Phillips.

First things first, Penny’s Big Breakaway is a momentum platformer like Sonic, but unlike the hedgehog’s recent outings, you have to earn your speed through careful use of dashing, swinging, rolling, and using your Yo-Yo in all sorts of cool ways. It feels pretty similar to A Hat in Time, actually, having you go around big levels with an expansive moveset with speedy potential.

It takes some getting used to, but once you’ve got the hang of it, controlling Penny feels like a dream. The only games that have encouraged me to get the hang of the game flow and start speedrunning as much as this one is Neon White and Celeste; it feels good to roll around, keep control of your momentum, and go fast. The bosses and bonus levels complement this, too, mostly being straightforward obstacle courses that test your movement.

These NPCs always want you to do something for them, which usually isn’t much of an issue, unless it’s timed, in which case you get thrown into the mission with 0 warning, which sucks. – Image by Monica Phillips.

The only issue with this is the collectibles scattered around the level. These things either unlock bonus levels in the case of tokens or practically nothing in the case of NPC quests and feel like total pace breakers. They incentivized me to play most levels slowly, whereas not much incentivized me to use my potential and go fast.

Overall, the game feels incredibly smooth, with entertaining level gimmicks that encourage the great flow this game has overall – I wish those collectibles either rewarded me more or were a lot more readily obtainable while trying to go fast. It’s an enjoyable, smooth-feeling game that especially feels great to speedrun, but 100% can be a pain.

Around the World

As you progress, you’d think the coins would get harder to get, but sometimes they’re still just out in the open. Dilemmas are still dummy hard sometimes though. – Image by Monica Phillips.

Progression in this game is strange. The levels keep getting more interesting with varied theming, but they feel like they need to be more cohesive and connect with each other naturally outside of a few instances. On top of that, the balance of levels per area feels off, with most levels having 3-4 regular levels and a boss, but some having way more or even less.

There are 11 areas in this game, but I can’t help but think that it may have been better to go for eight that are all equal in length and equally fleshed out. These themes are fantastic and creative, and I’d like to see more natural progression between areas. At least the difficulty scales pretty evenly; I never noticed anything feeling more demanding than it should.

Doing The Time Warp

I sure wish I could properly see the background, but this weird dithering effect gets applied to anything that’s more than a few feet in front of you. – Image by Monica Phillips.

On a (literally) brighter note, given that Evening Star gets its name from a Sega 32x game, you’d expect some pretty vibrant colors and funky visuals from Penny, and it 100% delivers. It has super bouncy, fun animations, excellent hand-drawn effects on everything, really well-drawn cutscenes, and everything is supersaturated and colorful, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues.

The only issue with this is the models need a bit more polishing. There are bits where you can see the models fold in on themselves in a pretty ugly way, but 90% of the time, it looks super clean and well done; there are just a few rough edges that could’ve been sanded down with a bit more time, including the ugly dithering filter placed on anything far away.

Overall, it has a bright, vibrant, and fun style that makes me feel like I’m staring into the soul of a vaporwave music video.

Audio – Double or Nothing

This wintery wonderland blends speakers and bismuth, and it’s a killer aesthetic with one of the best tracks in the game to back it up. – Image by Monica Phillips.

Speaking of music, Tee Lopes returns from Sonic Mania as the audio director of this game, and he and Sean Bialo (who worked on Spark the Electric Jester, another banger) have once again done an incredible job. This is the only section where I have 0 complaints. They’ve captured the funky, incredibly fun, and upbeat vibe you’d expect while going for a retro, electronic vibe, and it works so well.

Each track had me pumped up, and I cannot wait till this drops on Spotify; I will like the entire album frame one. On top of the incredible soundtrack, the sound design generally pops off, with everything feeling incredibly whimsical but impactful, leading to the game feeling ten times better to play. They knocked it out of the park with this soundscape.

A Big Ol’ Bag of Tricks

Penny here gets to go audition in front of the emperor, which might seem scary, but at least she can get a job offer in this economy. – Image by Monica Phillips.

The narrative in Penny’s Big Breakaway is, as you might expect, pretty simplistic and comedic in nature. It doesn’t feature the cosmic horrors and drama of a Sonic story but instead has Penny break the law since pantsing a man is an actual war crime, leading to her being on the run from Eddie, the emperor, and his incompetent army of adorable penguins.

Most of the writing is fun, quirky, and has a sprinkling of that Gen Z humor you’d find in many indies nowadays, but more sparse and tactful. A lot of the jokes landed more often than I expected, and although the story was light, it gave me a clear goal and had some great characters that I quite enjoyed overall. Perhaps a bit too simple, but still satisfying.

A Broken String

Honestly, I have no clue. I don’t know how to describe this image, and I don’t know what’s happening. – Image by Monica Phillips.

Now for easily the worst part of this game: the bugs, glitches, performance, and overall nitty-gritty of what makes this game tick. This game was rushed, it’s plain to see, and I experienced a cavalcade of issues that occasionally hindered or prevented my enjoyment of some sections, as well as the game not functioning correctly, with this varying depending on the system.

On PC, I experienced 11 out-of-bounds clips, 2 softlocks, several random deaths, a checkpoint respawning me over a bottomless pit and making me die endlessly, a strange momentum bug making me zip across a level, a crane detaching from reality and hovering over me like a specter, the audio not working twice as well as playing a sound repeatedly for no reason, and a fatal error leading to a crash when I started a level, among many other minor bugs.

I’ve heard that many of these things (especially the crash) are specific to PCs with an AMD GPU, but these are what I’ve experienced. I’ve also seen that most people’s playthroughs were less buggy than mine, but maybe the game just detected I would write a review on it so it served every issue it possibly could on a platter. If you want to dive in, it’s best to wait for this game to be patched.

Loop De Loop

The bonus levels are always super fun, being quick romps through short, tightly designed levels that focus purely on platforming. Kinda like Mario Sunshine! – Image by Monica Phillips.

Despite the other issues, Penny’s Big Breakaway is easily the most replayable game I’ve ever reviewed. It feels incredibly satisfying to play the Time Attack mode, wittle your score down, and see how you did compared to everyone else on the leaderboard. I can easily see the super fun movement leading to this game becoming a speedrunning staple, up there with Celeste, Mario 64, and Super Metroid.

Even if you’re not a speedrunner, there’s still plenty to do in these levels. You could go back and get all the collectibles even though the NPC Dilemmas give you barely anything of use, or you could play the levels while trying to maximize your score to unlock some cool concept art. You can play how you want and still get a ton of value from this, and that’s cool.


Image from Spark the Electric Jester 3.

Though Penny’s Big Breakaway is a great game, it might differ from what you’re looking for, especially if you’re looking for a game where walls aren’t just a suggestion or something more Sonic-y. Either way, I’ve gotcha covered:

  • Spark the Electric Jester 3 is the most Sonicy non-Sonic game out there, and it’s an easy recommendation for anyone looking to get into a fast, frantic, and very high-quality 3D platformer. It will scratch that Sonic itch while also being a great game in its own right – just don’t listen to annoying people on Twitter.
  • A Hat in Time is the most standard example of an Indie 3D platformer, but it’s for good reason. It has incredible fun, freeing movement, allowing you to build momentum and go fast. Plus, it has a child swinging from a grapple while being put in harm’s way by adults with ill will, so it’s pretty similar to Penny in that regard, just with more cat crime.
  • Solar Ash is more of an open-world venture than any of my other recommendations, but it has the Sonic vibes, with the gameplay being quite similar to that of Sonic Frontiers. It’s also got Shadow of the Collossus-style bosses and a lot of rollerblading on clouds while picking up a ton of collectibles, so it’s a good one in my book.

The Verdict – 8/10

If this game were delayed a few more months, I might be singing a different tune and giving this my first 10/10, but unfortunately, some shenanigans happened, and this game shadow dropped the same day as a Nintendo Direct when that really should’ve just been the release date trailer. The whole time I was playing, I felt like I was playing a pre-release, early access build, with everything cemented but nothing polished.

I enjoy this game a lot; it’s not too often I do anything for 6 hours straight, but I did do that while playing this game, even though I experienced way more bugs than the average person, apparently. With some bug fixes, this could easily be a 9/10, and with some excellent additions, fleshing out some things, a few reworks here and there, and a ton of polish, it could be a 10/10.

But, for now, at least, I’d recommend waiting a month or two to get this game when it’s patched and/or on sale. It’s definitely enough content to justify a $30 price tag, but it’d be nice not to have a significant bug take you out of the experience every 30 minutes and also not have a risk of the game crashing on you randomly. It has some cool tricks, but it shouldn’t have rolled out so soon.


  • Incredibly fun, fast, and fluid gameplay that controls immaculately.
  • Inspired, popping visual style that is usually a five-star course for the eyes.
  • Great soundtrack that I could listen to for hours on end.


  • Buggy, with something unintended happening to me almost every half hour.
  • Occasionally unpolished, with certain things looking rough.
  • May not work and crash on some PC’s, capped to 30 FPS on Switch, with numerous issues on all platforms.

Play Log

I played Penny’s Big Breakaway for 14 hours on PC and Steam Deck, which works just as well as a regular desktop PC (which is to say, a solid 80% of the time). I got 100% completion, aside from the concept art, cause I forgot.

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