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If you love Sonic the Hedgehog, you need to check out Penny’s Big Breakaway

Key art for Penny's Big Breakaway.
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Follow the talent, not the brand.

In any creative industry, that’s good advice if you’re wondering why your favorite series has stagnated. In the case of Penny’s Big Breakaway, some of the talent behind 2017’s excellent Sonic Mania went on to form Evening Star, and that teams has now made a momentum-based 3D platformer based around a character with a yo-yo. If you love Sonic, it’s the kind of project you might like more than the hedgehog’s actual adventures.

I’ve played through five of Penny’s Big Breakaway’s 11 worlds and already can tell that this game will be a must-play for platforming fans, especially those who have maybe been underwhelmed or disappointed by the likes of Sonic Frontiers or Sonic Superstars. It’s strength is right there in the title: This is a big breakaway for the developers at Evening Star to prove they can make an enjoyable platformer all on their own, one that boasts a unique control scheme that pulls from titles like Skate.

Keeping up the talented momentum

In Penny’s Big Breakaway, players control the titular character who is on the run after her Yo-Yo — a sentient being that has a mouth, teeth, and anger issues — tears off the clothes of Emperor Eddie during a performance audition and embarrasses him. That setup provides all the spark this level-based adventure needs, with the main goal almost always being to get to the end of the tightly designed, obstacle-filled stages.

Penny rides a yo-yo zipline in Penny's Big Breakaway.
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Each new stage presents some sort of unique new gameplay twist, slowly introducing it to the player and then testing their ability to deal with it thoroughly by the end. Stages are full of shortcuts, hidden challenges, and collectibles for more skilled players to obtain, which serves as more than enough encouragement to replay levels or try them out in the Time Attack mode.

Sonic Mania also had fantastic level design, so it’s no surprise that this quality carries over to Penny’s Big Breakaway. But a platformer is only as good as its controls, and this title takes some risk with its main gameplay hook. It’s best described as a dual-stick platformer. Players move Penny around with the left stick and control the yo-yo with the right stick, and those two things can be done independently from each other. The yo-yo is an all-purpose tool that can grab things, be spun around, and even be swung on in midair.

Couple that with other abilities like jumping and being able to ride the yo-yo down slopes, and Penny’s Big Breakaway features a distinct control scheme with lots of hidden depth. It takes some getting used to initially — I dashed off the edge of the stage quite a few times early on — but once you gain the hang of it, it’s a surprisingly fluid control scheme. Momentum is important in Penny’s Big Breakway, but that doesn’t always go hand in hand with speed like it tends to with Sonic.

Instead, it’s about keeping up momentum so you can continually string different abilities together and keep up your pace of movement. That’s more similar to a skateboarding game like Skate, with which it shares elements of the control scheme. I was the most successful at completing difficult platforming challenges when I learned the intricacies of it all and discovered how to maintain and chain moves together to keep my momentum up.

Penny glides through the air with her yo-yo in Penny's Big Breakaway.
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The adventure also features a score and combo system, like a skateboarding game, as well as penguin enemies that constantly chase Penny and will slow her down if they touch her. Those systems subtly encourage players to keep moving and get creative with the platforming tools provided. Sonic Mania’s developers understand that the fun of Sonic comes from mastering the controls, platforming, and high speeds, not just the speed itself. At Evening Star, they’ve recontextualized those strengths into a whole new kind of platformer, affirming the studio as a developer to watch in the genre.

Penny’s Big Breakaway releases for PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch in early 2024.

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Tomas Franzese
Gaming Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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