Also Known As "PenPen's Stroke-a-thon" - Review By Fragmaster
In the list of Dreamcast launch titles, you'll notice a bunch of cool looking fighting games, a couple of racing games, a couple of sports games… nothing unusual. But one of those titles stands out, as it's only Dreamcast launch title targeted at youngsters. That game is PenPen TriIceLon, and I use the term "game" loosely.
PenPen TriIceLon features a variety of cartoonish creatures competing in "ice-walking, belly-surfing, and swimming." In case you're wondering about the name, PenPen is the main character, a Penguin type thing, and it's called a TriIceLon because of the three "events" involved in each race. PenPen has three modes of play: versus mode (for up to four players), time trial (race against the clock), and the TriIceLon. You can adjust the level of difficulty in TriIceLon to easy, medium, or hard. The harder the difficulty the more obstacles and challenges your little cartoon friend will have to overcome.
Overall, PenPen's graphics are pretty good. Everything is very cartoony and fits into the game's general theme. The characters are well-animated and somewhat original. The levels are fairly unique and are textured well, in most areas.
The interface is thought out and easy to use (important, for a kid's game). You can select characters, keep track of their progress, and even dress them up when inside "Pen Pen's House," which serves as the game's main interface.
The save state system is very easy to use and kid-friendly. To finish a PenPen session, you go to the "Bedroom" and say "Good Night". After enduring some sappy messages, your game can be saved. This method is not only convenient (no hunting around various options menus for a save option), but probably makes a lot of sense to kids.
The sound and music are decent. It sounds like what you expect a kiddie game would sound like.
Where to begin…
The controls are pretty annoying and the basic gameplay is kind of stupid. Most of the time, you're "stroking" your character along the ice with the "A" button. Besides the obvious jokes about "stroking it," the entire process of slowly tapping the A-Button repeatedly just isn't very fun. When you're walking along land, you can jump with the A-Button and "attack" with the B-Button. Attacking is kind of dumb: when close to your opponent, you can fling yourself at them to slow them down. If you miss (which is easy to do), then it'll take you a few seconds to recover (annoying) and you'll probably fall behind the pack.
There are some minor issues with the sounds and graphics. Some sounds are especially annoying, once you hear them over and over, and there is some serious fogging and minor clipping in certain places.
Some of the levels deviate from the theme. I don't quite understand what a big long tunnel that looks like something from a rejected Star Wars videogame is doing in the "Sweets" level, for example. Speaking of the levels, there are only four (Sweets, Jungle, Toys, and Horrors). And none of them are particularly interesting, I can't think of any "memorable" areas. Overall, there's just not much to do. The game is really short.
Oh, and the weird loading screens kinda freak me out. What the hell?
The Final Word
Unless you're desperately looking for a Dreamcast game for your little tykes to play, you'll probably want to avoid PenPen TriIceLon. It's too short and repetitive to be of much value, but at least it looks nice and may keep kids interested for a short while before they start pawing around for a Soul Calibur CD or something.
Developer: Land Ho
Highs: Good cartoon-like graphics, interface, save system, sound.
Lows: Dumb gameplay, repetitive, too short.
Other: 1-4 Players, VMU Compatible (saves your progress), Jump Pack Compatible.
(out of a possible 10)
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