While we got some decent Konami games over here in North America, we didn’t get to see the sort of brand unity that they had in Famicom. We really got ripped off, not seeing a hair of the Ganbare Goemon series until the SNES, never really getting a look at Parodius, and even getting snubbed for Gradius II.
I’d have to think about it, but I don’t think we even got a single game starring Penta the Penguin. Not that he was all that memorable aside from being an adorable penguin suffering from alcoholism and PTSD, but it’s a little strange that we didn’t even get Antarctic Adventure outside of a single port for the Colecovision. He’s a bit of a weird mess, having starred in a bleak anime and advertising for Suntory Beer, so I guess it stands to reason that he’d star in some weird games as well.
Take Yume Penguin Monogatari, for instance. It’s the fat-shamingest game around!
The story of Yume Penguin Monogatari is a unique one. Penta has put on a lot of weight since his last adventure, and Penko, his girlfriend, is fed up with it. She threatens to break up with him if he doesn’t slim down, which is a pretty cruel way to treat a Vietnam war veteran with PTSD. In any case, Penta has low enough self-respect to set off on an adventure of weight loss.
In each stage, you’re given a tight time limit and a goal to reach when it comes to your weight. Reach the end of the level fast enough and slim enough to proceed. You’ve got a weight gauge that tracks your progress through three ranks: fat, normal, and slim. Your attacks and movement speed change as you lose the flab.
You can’t really die in Yume Penguin Monogatari. Enemies will either knock you down, causing you to lose time, or throw food at you, causing you to gain weight. If you reach the end of a level with junk in your trunk or fail to make it in time, you’re given the option to replay the level to try again. In that way, it’s a pretty easy going game. It’s pretty good for kids if you’re okay with having them around.
NO MAGIC BULLET
Losing weight requires more than exercise, however. You drop the poundage by picking up health drinks that fall from defeated enemies. It takes a number of drinks to get from fat to fit, but a single onigiri could bring your belly rolls back in an instant if you’re not careful. Like in real life, it’s easier to just stay slim than it is to actually lose weight, so your best bet is to drop the weight fast and do everything you can to keep it off.
Gameplay alternates between simple platforming and horizontal shoot-’em-up. Neither mode is particularly deep, but they offer fun and simple takes on their genre. There are only six levels, but there’s a lot of variety between them. In terms of platforming, there are both vertical and horizontal sections. Most of the levels are capped off by boss battles, which are pretty formulaic, but also enjoyable as you try to work off the last bit of weight in the midst of battle.
JUNK IN THE TRUNK
However, those six levels are ridiculously short, as is the game. If there was supposed to be any value from longevity, it’s from counting on you to fail at working off the poundage, which, to be fair, can be a struggle. On a distracted day recently, I failed and failed again on the first two levels, but in the most recent playthrough, I burned through the whole thing without tripping over a hurdle. In that playthrough, it probably only took me about a half hour to see everything.
The puts it in Kirby’s playground; being a perfectly satisfying and fun game, but lasting about as long as an afternoon nap. It’s not exactly a cheap game nowadays, so you may have to weigh that factor, as well.
There’s also no real replay value, despite the game putting you right back at the start after you complete it. It’s a bit more difficult, but the stages are the same, so, again, it’s like Kirby if all his binge eating finally caught up with him.
A LITTLE SLIM AROUND THE WAIST
If anything, Yume Penguin Monogatari is worth playing, if only for the colourful graphics, lighthearted atmosphere, and bizarre, on-the-nose plot. However, if you’re looking for something that is actually going to last, you might need to look elsewhere. But for the time you actually get to spend with it, Yume Penguin Monogatari is an enjoyable game. It’s a lot like a female underwear model: aesthetically pleasing, but doubtlessly underweight.
This review was conducted on a Famicom Twin using a cartridge copy of the game. It was paid for by the author.