Is Penny’s Big Breakaway, Worth Playing?
Honest Video Game Reviews received a free copy of this title for review purposes, however our opinions are our own.
While Penny may not be the most endearing protagonist, Penny’s Big Breakaway is, without doubt, the most polished 3D platformer not developed by Sega or Nintendo released in well over a decade, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for Penny and her magical yo-yo.

The Lowdown.

Product Details
Genre: Action
Developer: Private Division
Publisher: Evening Star
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 21 February 2024
Supported Modes:

Developer Credentials.

While Christian Whitehead may not be well known to many in the wider gamer community, to the Sonic the Hedgehog and, by extension, platformer communities, he is known as the creative force behind two of the best 2D platformers released in the past decade (Freedom Planet 2 and Sonic Mania), in addition to his work bringing retro Sonic games to modern platforms.

So when it was announced that he and several Sonic Mania developers were starting a studio (Evening Star), people rightly paid attention, and for good reason. Penny’s Big Breakaway is one of the best platformers on the market.

While I feel Penny isn’t the best protagonist they could have chosen, and something about her design just doesn’t click with me (and many others), the moment-to-moment gameplay is so good that I can look past how much I dislike Penny.

If Penny is given another chance to win me (and the wider gaming community) over, her second outing will undoubtedly be far better received than Penny’s Big Breakaway, which sadly has sold poorly on PC and only slightly better on console.

However, such obstacles need not be the end of the franchise, and a release onto Xbox Game Pass or PS Plus would give millions of players the chance to play one of the best platformers since the original Spyro the Dragon and ensure future success for the franchise and its developers (Evening Star).


Penny’s Big Breakaway is a perfect mix of simple controls and surprisingly in-depth gameplay mechanics that allow players to accomplish a lot with a little (basically a magic yo-yo); whether I am riding Penny’s yo-yo like a unicycle, using it to hold off enemies, or using it as a rope swing to reach other inaccessible areas, Penny’s Big Breakaway allows children of the 1990s to feel the same wonder that we felt when we first played Spyro the Dragon or Crash Bandicoot, something which few games since have come close to capturing.

Interactive map elements such as ziplines, slingshots, and screw-top elevators, in addition to a fair-sized selection of power-ups that modify the yo-yo’s default abilities, make Penny’s Big Breakaway one of the most immersive, enjoyable, and ultimately rewarding 3D platformers on the market, and one that I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who can look past Penny’s terrible character model.

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Penny’s Big Breakaway feels like a mid-1990s platformer in that the narrative barely exists and, for the most part, is entirely skippable, with players only being given the barest of narrative reasons to do whatever they do.

While I enjoy long, in-depth narratives, I enjoy Penny’s Big Breakaway’s flimsy narrative. It is so vapid that I can easily skip through each cutscene and enjoy Penny’s Big Breakaway’s buttery smooth gameplay and excellent level design.

The 1990s Sonic and Mario games were some of the finest platformers ever made. Still, their narratives were so basic that they could often be summed up in a single sentence, such as “rescue the princess” or “collect chaos emeralds,” and saying that Penny’s Big Breakaway has a weak narrative is in no way a black mark against the game or its developers.
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While Penny’s Big Breakaway looks fantastic and features dozens of vibrant colours, character models are lacking. The protagonist, Penny, is perhaps the least visually appealing protagonist I have ever played.

Unlike Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario, and Princess Peach, she feels forgettable, and I cannot honestly imagine anyone claiming her to be their favourite character with a straight face and uncrossed fingers.

Character models aside, I must credit the developers for their world and level design skills, which are visually and mechanically indistinguishable from the quality you would expect from a first-party Nintendo or Playstation studio.

If the character models were given the same level of care and attention as the rest of the game, Penny’s Big Breakaway could perhaps be the best-looking 3D platformer not developed by a first-party studio since the 1990s. While it’s too late to change Penny’s design substantially, I would like to see what the developers can do with the character if they are given the opportunity to develop a sequel or definitive edition of Penny’s Big Breakaway which replaces Penny’s character model with something that fits better with the world and its inhabitants.

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While Penny’s Big Breakaway is overall a well-polished game, there are some pretty nasty bugs at launch, including run-ending bugs that cause a player to become stuck in the environment.

While this can occur in several places, a common issue is players being stuck walking endlessly in shallow water without drowning and becoming embedded into railings; however, I would expect the developers are already working on these bugs, and hopefully, they will not be an issue much longer.

Value for Money.

Penny’s Big Breakaway is fairly priced ($29.99), is easy to pick up, offers a decent but not overwhelming run time (around 8 hours), has plenty of challenging content to enjoy for those who wish to find every collectable and overall, is very much like the best games of the 1990s, which perfectly served a casual audience with their moderate run times and easy to pick up controls while providing hundreds of hours of challenging content for those who wished to discover every secret and collect every collectable.

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I am not a fan of speedrunning, but when I first played Penny’s Big Breakaway, right away, I could see how much fun it would be to speed run; Penny’s Big Breakaway is never more enjoyable than when you are blasting through a level at a full tilt run, and I can see it become a favourite with speed runners, once they become aware of site distance, as frankly, it’s a perfect game for speed runners.

It’s a shame that Penny’s Big Breakaway remains widely unknown and unheard of by the speedrunning community. I suspect this is a big part of why it sold so poorly on PC.

A Modern Golden Age 3D Platformer.

People who were gamers in the 1990s got to experience first-hand the birth of the 3D platformer. While many would say that 2D platformers are mechanically and visually superior to their 3D counterparts, I feel that both 2D and 3D titles have much to offer the genre and have both enjoyed (and sometimes endured) periods of success and failure.

With titles such as Crash Bandicoot (1994), Spyro the Dragon (1998), and Banjo Tooie (2000) sharing the stage with iconic titles such as Super Mario 64 and Donkey Kong 64, platformer fans in the 90s and early 2000s were eating well, until suddenly they were not, and a flood of less impressive and occasionally downright 3D platformers and occasionally poorly received sequels to established franchises left Nintendo almost the sole custodian of the genre, with Sega having been forced out of the console race after the Dreamcast failed to sell enough units and Sonic the hedgehog took his first steps towards a dark path which resulted in a decade of poorly received games that left many in the fanbase feeling that their faith in the blue streak was misplaced.

With many smaller developers opting to develop 2D platformers (and many are excellent) and AAA developers hesitant to invest in a genre that Nintendo has dominated for almost 20 years, very few quality 3D platformers have been released that were not either remasters of golden era titles, or poorly received attempts to revive long-dead franchises, such as Crash bandicoot 4, which while being an excellent title, was deemed by many in the community as lacking the charm that made the original trilogy so beloved.

Upon first booting up Penny’s Big Breakaway, my initial impression was it looked and felt like a 1990s platformer, and after playing for a good few hours, that has not changed.

As a child of the 90s, my inner child couldn’t be happy to experience the wonder and magic of a 3D platformer despite being well into my 30s.

What makes me even more excited for Penny’s Big Breakaway is that I know there are millions of others like me who would feel an equal sense of wonder while playing Penny’s Big Breakaway, not to mention young gamers, who for many, may be experiencing a 3D platformer not developed and published by Nintendo for the first time.

I must clarify that I have nothing against Nintendo platformers; they are some of the best the genre has to offer, and I am a huge fan of much of what Nintendo releases; however, variety is the spice of life, and while Penny may not be the most endearing protagonist, the gameplay loop is solid, and I would love to see the character be iterated and improved upon in future games, as while Penny’s first outing may now have won over the hearts and minds of the platformer community, Penny’s Big Breakaway’s solid gameplay loop and eye-catching visuals just may do so given time.

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Penny’s Big Breakaway FAQ

Penny’s Big Breakaway is a action video game developed by Private Division and published by Evening Star , it was released on 21 February 2024 and retails for $29.99.

Platform Availability.

Penny’s Big Breakaway is available on the following platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, Playstation 5, and Xbox Series X|S.

What Peripherals Are Supported?

The following peripherals are officially supported:

  • Console - Controller.
  • PC - Controller.
  • PC - Mouse and Keyboard.

Is There Any Mature Content?

Penny’s Big Breakaway is rated PEGI 3+ and contains no offensive content.

Final Verdict.

Penny’s Big Breakaway is a mechanically brilliant, visually stunning, fairly priced and well-polished 3D platformer that is only held back by its ultimately unlikable protagonist and a lack of narrative depth.

That being said, for a first outing, Penny’s Big Breakaway is an outstanding game, and while Penny has not yet won me over the way that Spyro, Mario, Crash Bandicoot and Sonic did way back when, I would love to see what the developers can do the with character in a sequel, as while Penny is technically brilliant there is just something so unlikeable about the character design, that frankly makes it difficult for me to care what happens to her or the world she lives in.

Overall a mechanically excellent game that fans of the genre won’t want to miss, but it very much does feel like a first outing, and at launch does have some run-ending bugs issues that can be frustrating when encountered repeatedly; however,, I would expect those to be fixed swiftly, as while Evening Star may not be the best at character design, they are excellent programmers, which is a huge part of the reason why Sonic Mania is widely viewed as the best 2D Sonic game since Sonic 3 & Knuckles by many in the community.

Is Penny’s Big Breakaway Worth Playing In 2024?

Honest Video Game Reviews has given "Penny’s Big Breakaway" a rating of 7/10, indicating that it is a good game, that is well worth playing, and while it may have a few shortcomings, the average gamer will enjoy it.

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