Penny's Big Breakaway review: A grand performance

Evening Star's first original IP offers us a charming and colorful 3D platforming experience, but does Penny's Big Breakaway have substance to match its style?

Image via Evening Star

Ever since I learned that Evening Star was staffed with developers that gave us the impeccable Sonic Mania, I felt like we were in for special treat with their new and original project, Penny’s Big Breakaway. It was quite a step away from their previous games, moving from 2D to 3D platforming. However, I had a feeling Evening Star would pour the same level of passion and charm into Penny’s that they put in elsewhere, and I was right. Penny’s Big Breakaway is a funny adventure that continues to cement the developers as leaders when it comes to fun platforming game design.

Travesty at the Talent Show

The very core of Penny’s Big Breakaway is delightfully zany. In the world of Macaroon, Emperor Eddie hosts a yearly talent show in which the denizens get to show off and share their best tricks and performances. Cue Penny: a street performer that’s an ace with a yo-yo and wants to become known around the world. When she discovers special artifact known as a Cosmic String, she feels she finally has what she needs to hit the big time… that is, until her suddenly living yo-yo eats the Emperor’s clothes, prompting embarrassment and a demand that she be jailed. Suddenly, Penny finds herself on the run from the royal Penguin Guard through Macaroon as she looks to clear her name and share her performances with the world.

Penny’s Big Breakaway is bustling with colorful worlds, catchy music, funny characters, and spicy challenges. There are about 11 worlds and around 40 levels, including bonus levels that can be unlocked. The worlds themselves are an excellent array of aesthetics. For instance, in the water world of Tideswell, you’ll have to use Penny’s yo-yo to coast on the watery surfaces and use rubber banding palm trees to launch you great distances in the levels. Meanwhile, in power plant world of Zaphara, you’ll have to contend with electric beams and knock bull enemies into flags to open corkscrewing poles you can use to fling yourself around. Every world has new and interesting gimmicks and they mostly all add fun wrinkles to what you’ll do to get Penny to the goals in each level.

Penny challenging a secret level in Penny's Big Breakaway
Source: Evening Star

The levels are mostly well-designed, too. Besides aesthetics, every world has interesting challenges, enemies, and hazards to match. There’s certainly reuse of some gimmicks, but not so much that it isn’t fun to explore every corner of what these levels offer. And they’re aided by an absolutely lovely soundtrack crafted by Tee Lopes, Sean Bialo and other musicians. Every world has its own signature music and most of them are charming earworms that had me humming them well after I stepped away from the game.

Penny’s Big Breakaway isn’t entirely without faults in its presentation and design. Boss battles are fun and feature very interesting mechanics to defeat each one, but the bosses aren’t really used beyond their levels despite generally being fun and outlandish characters. They're one-and-done and for the charm that they have, I would have liked to see them more between the levels, either in build-up or post-fight encounters. Even so, with so much content to play, Penny’s Big Breakaway almost always delivers for how simple much of its story and narrative progress goes.

Walk the Dog, Around the World & other such classics

Penny’s Big Breakaway could be a very amusing cartoon if it wasn’t a game, but it’s very good at being a game as well. This is Evening Star’s jump into 3D platforming and, for the start of a new IP, it performs quite admirably. With Penny’s magic yo-yo, you have a series of tricks at your disposal to help you get around, and the ultimate goal is to traverse levels with those yo-yo tricks, avoid the Emperor’s Penguin Guard and pitfalls, and get to a final goal where you’ll do an end-level performance for a gathered crowd.

The basic tricks include a regular swing of the yo-yo for grabbing objectives and items as well as bopping penguins. You can also hold her basic swing to leave the yo-yo hanging in the air and allow her to swing from it like a trapeze artist. Meanwhile, mashing the basic swing twice makes Penny launch herself in the direction she’s swinging with strong momentum. Finally, Penny can swing in a circle around herself to affect certain obstacles and do an area attack and even spindash to traverse stages quicker and fly off ramps built into the environment.

It’s a simple set of overall tools, but Penny gets so much mileage out of using them in different ways that this game feels rewarding and refreshing at every turn. For instance, you might use the spin attack to turn a giant screw and elevate or lower yourself to new areas. The Sonic love is also showing because not only can you do a spin dash on the yo-yo to ride it at high speed, but if you start it from the air, you can do a drop dash as well. Every move has so many uses and, generally, they’re pretty satisfying (plus you get a score multiplier if you can string a bunch of yo-yo tricks together non-stop as you traverse levels).

Learning the multitude of ways Penny can use her yo-yo is key to perfecting your play of levels. Penny’s Big Breakaway levels can be completed without much fuss, but they also have hidden medallions and citizen challenges you can collect to fully complete the levels. In that way there’s not only replayabillity here, but also a bit of extra challenge as you go out of your way scouring every level high and low to find each challenge and medallion. Whether you want to be full completionist or just relax and complete levels at your leisure, Penny’s has you covered.

The boss battle with Shiela in Penny's Big Breakaway
Source: Evening Star

For all of this platforming goodness, there are still a few things I wish Penny’s Big Breakaway did better. For one, you never have control of the camera in this game. It’s fixed at all times. Sometimes that’s a good thing because you never have to worry about it, but sometimes it keeps you from really searching a world and making sure you’re not missing something if you don’t actually move to every nook and cranny of the level. It also creates an issue with depth perception on occasion since you can’t turn the camera to get a better idea of where Penny will fall on a jump. The game also has a few bugs such as one where I dashed right through a wall and couldn’t escape from behind it until I found a place to fall off the level. Don’t get me wrong. The level of polish in this game is still spectacular, there are just a few spots where the cracks show.

Get ready for your big finale!

The stage clear Busker Bonus minigame in Penny's Big Breakaway.
Source: Evening Star

Penny’s Big Breakaway is a delightful breath of fresh air for the 3D platforming genre. It doesn’t just feel like a love letter to Sonic, but rather a number of mascot platformers from back in the day that captured our hearts. There are a few issues here and there, but for a first official release in 3D platforming from Evening Star, it’s a great start, featuring a massive collection of beautiful levels, solid mechanics and gimmicks, and a soundtrack that keeps the vibes charming throughout. There’s a lot to enjoy here, and I hope it’s just the start of things to come for Evening Star, Penny, and the world of Macaroon.

This review is based on a PlayStation 5 digital copy supplied by the publisher, Penny’s Big Breakaway is available now on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

  • Lots of worlds and levels to explore
  • A lovely array of moves and tons of ways to use them
  • Very charming soundtrack throughout
  • Colorful art style that makes the whole thing cartoonish
  • Satisfying 3D platforming and gimmicks throughout
  • Fixed camera can be your worst enemy
  • Some naughty little bugs here and there
  • Colorful cast (especially bosses) are underutilized
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