As one of the first launch titles to be rolled out on December 9th, there is no question consumers had an assorted variety of games to choose from. While many rushed for other viable titles to prove their soul still burns, readied their rumbling finesse or engaged in surreal adventures with talking hedgehogs, there sat one title; a game based on its namesake alone would prompt many to steer clear from it on all angles. It's not the first time a game like Pen Pen Trilcelon would get overlooked due to its highly animated, deviate penquin-esque characters. In fact, if not for the savvy marketing techniques by Sony, do you really think we'd all be chanting "I gotta believe" ??? Perhaps not.
To be frank, even I wasn't sure what to expect from the game right up to the official release. Once the game arrived, the interest factor was elevated, and off I went to discover what made all gamers take such a neglected disposition. After a good 15 minutes of play, my perceptions were raised and a whimsical grin remained on my face throughout the entire time. For you see, Pen Pen Trilcelon is a fun game, for once you've looked beyond the wacky designs (and the lively announcer who reminds me of some children's program from long ago); the addiction factor becomes easily justified.
The premise requires you to select one of seven animal characters which range from a hippo, octopus, walrus, and even a penguin who are competing in several challenging courses. In essence, you're competing on the "Iced Planet" against several penguin-like characters known as PenPens, in the race against the clock or other the array of available characters. Course options consists of three racing modes in order of difficulty (Easy, Middle, and Long Trilcelon respectively). It's recommended that you start off with Easy first in order to get familiar with the game mechanics as the latter prove to be more challenging. The PenPen you control is manipulated with the Analog Pad, the B button is used for attacking competing opponents, keep in mind that you'll only attack in the direction in which the player is facing. As a trade off for initiating the attack, your PenPen will slow down...this is a feature which should be used sparingly and strategically. Your primary button which advances the character is the A button. When you're ice-walking throughout a course, pressing this button will cause you to jump. While you're belly-surfing of swimming, the button is used to stroke (much like rowing a boat). The ideal operation of using this button is to press and hold the button, which makes the character initiate the stroke movement...to make the PenPen swim/surf faster, you must press the button repeatedly in a balanced fashion. Unfortunately, a brake feature isn't included, so you need to release the A button to decelerate.
Each character is brilliantly rendered, composed of warm hues that go well with the overall level design of each respective course in the game. As the players win races, you'll be awarded with items such as flippers which equip your character with new abilities (and at the very least, add more amusing appeal to what is already intentionally designed to be pure entertainment).
To add more dazzle to the experience, Pen Pen features weather and lighting effects (such as snow, fog, etc.) which showcase the Dreamcast's power. In fact, if you take the time to look at the number of effects going on, coupled with the characters and original layouts of each course, it's yet another game that just gives a glimpse of what to expect when future titles take advantage of such aspects. There are a number of obstacles, some effectively frustrating at times which prevent your player from advancing to the finish line. When the players are hit, there is some in-game 'speech', along with an exceptional level of animation showing the inflicted damage taken (figuratively speaking of course) Additional game features include a Dress-Up mode, which you can outfit your character with various items collected on the track or when you win races. To give more replay to the game, as eventually you'd become bored competing against the computer, you can go up against 3 of your friends for some competitive fun. The split screen retains much of the standard graphics seen in a one-player mode, and the frame rate is considerably high, showing close to little or no slowdown during gameplay.
Most players are honestly never going to pick this game up, or even bother to rent it on one of those lonely Saturday nights, which is a bit disappointing. Pen Pen Trilcelon is exactly the type of game which we should see more of in the Dreamcast library. For the very fact that it's a genuinely cute title, sporting numerous Dreamcast effects giving precedence to some solid fun and enjoyment with friends. I am personally hoping for a sequel, more characters and additional levels should Infogrames follow through with a new racing adventure...only this time...I'd like it to consist of some buggy carts, and it's guaranteed more players will look into it.
· · · Bahn