Pankapu is a brand new action platfromer from indie developer Too Kind Studio. The game attempts to present a cinematic story with action platforming segments. The thing that I noticed as soon as I started the game was how it appears to have closely resembled the aesthetics and presentation of Ubisoft’s 2D Rayman series. Indeed, the developers deserve all the praise for getting closer to this style despite being an indie studio.
The story in Pankapu is set in the dream world of a child called Djaha’rell who is being told a bed time story by his father as he attempts to sleep. You will control the fearless warrior Pankapu in his quest to slay the evil Gangreyn and save the humans from nightmares. Pankapu will be helped by a trusty sidekick that he discovers along his journey. This sidekick is in the form of a magical golden spider that can often help Pankapu cross difficult obstacles or give hints throughout the game.
The main gameplay of Pankapu relies on tricky timed jumps for platforming segments and action focused combat where you can dodge or perform attacks on enemies. Don’t be fooled by the appearance as Pankapu can prove to be challenging if you don’t pay attention to it. The game does rely on checkpoints so if you do get killed, you can simply respawn from a previous checkpoint. You start with just 3 health bars and can collect more of them to increase their limit. You can also find health restoration items while reaching a checkpoint will automatically restore all of your health.
Despite the effort on the visuals, the gameplay ends up feeling clunky especially if you mix the combat with jumping attacks. You can perform a normal attack or try to perform a special attack which is tied to a meter that gets drained with each use. This meter can be recharged by killing enemies over time although it is not the only way to do so. As you progress further in the story, you will unlock more of your skills and can switch to different abilities.
There are 3 types of abilities also called Aegis that you will control in the game. The default ability is the sword with close range melee attacks, the second ability is primarily an archer with focus on ranged attacks while the last one is focused on magic based moves like teleportation. You can switch between these abilities easily so learning to utilize their skills is a key to achieving success in Pankapu.
The combat in Pankapu might not be as good, but its potential is also limited by the repeated enemies. They lack of enemy variety is a big disappointment when you play the game. The level design itself isn’t exactly stellar either so you will start to feel the repetitiveness of the combat as you slowly make you way through the story. This could have been improved with a more diverse enemy variety but unfortunately this is not the case here. The boss fights can prove to be a challenge and I really enjoyed what I played of them. They are basically the ultimate test of your skills.
Pankapu is a delight to witness on the Switch in portable mode. The game’s art style and color palette look really nice on the Switch screen but one of the minor qualm I had with the game was related to its controls. Unless I missed something in options, I was only able to control the character using the analog stick and dpad support is strangely absent. Perhaps this is an oversight on the developer’s part but in my experience, the game would have been better to control with the dpad here.
There is not a lot to do in Pankapu once you are done with the story and while there will be collectibles in each level, they don’t take much time. You can also attempt a time trial of each level. I think the game is priced decently compared to its play time so if you are looking for a nice little action platformer for the Nintendo Switch, Pankapu is not a bad choice here.
Pankapu Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: Pankapu is a narrative action-platformer that takes place in the dreams of Djaha'rell, a child troubled by a tragic incident. Upgrade your skills, find new competencies, switch your Aegis in real time in order to get rid of Nightmare's invasion: "Fight for the safety of your land, dear Dreamkeeper".
There is no doubt that Pankapu has a beautiful art style with a lot of attention given to the character animations, but unfortunately it also suffers with clunky controls and awkward difficulty spikes.