December 9, 2011 12 Comments
Update: Pingvinas is now only 80 Microsoft Points.
Pingvinas is the Lithuanian word for penguins. Why would they even need a word for that? Does Lithuania even have penguins? It would be like Southern California having its own word for polar bear, or Kansas having its own word for intelligence. Well I don’t need a unique word to describe what I think about Pingvinas. I thought it was pretty good, but it’s hardly without flaws.
Pingvinas is a strategy board game where you maneuver your team of 2 to 4 penguins across a grid of icebergs trying to collect the most fish. To start the game, you take turns with your opponents placing your penguins on any iceberg that has only one fish on it. Once all the penguins are placed, you can then move one of them per turn to another iceberg that is adjacent to the one you’re standing on, or to an iceberg that’s in a straight line from where you’re standing. Once you move your penguin, the previous space it occupied sinks. Every iceberg has between one and three fish on it. Whoever has collected the most fish when there are no more possible moves is the winner. It’s a lot like various peg-based games that you’ve seen over the years, and in fact this game is directly based on a popular board game called “Hey, That’s My Fish.” Which in some European countries is known as Pingvinas. Fancy that.
The game is fun, especially on Xbox Live. With AI opponents, I found even the smartest ones (called “extreme” here) make really dumb moves. Like any board game, it’s just better to play with real people. Even then, the retarded AI managed to rear its ugly head. As a game of Pingvinas nears its end, the game has a default option where all remaining moves will be taken care of automatically by the AI, even if you’re playing with only two human players. At first, Brian and I applauded this design choice as a great way to eliminate several minutes of useless game time, especially when the outcome is a foregone conclusion.
Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that the computer was way less than intelligent and could potentially cost someone a victory that, if left to the human players, would be inevitable. Once the board has been broken apart and your penguins have been nearly completely marooned from each other, the AI takes over. Now in theory, that’s the correct time for it to take over. The only “optional” moves left would be ones that you would use to intentionally get a lower score. Guess which moves the AI does. Yep. And so you’ll see situations where a penguin is alone with only two possible moves: move left or move right. No matter what, this will be the final move that penguin is capable of doing. On the left, you have an iceberg with one fish. On the right, the iceberg has three. I swear, without fail, the AI took the iceberg with the single fish every single fucking time. If you had a string of icebergs left where option one was get every one of them and option two was only get a couple, it would always end up getting the fewest possible. I figured that maybe it was possible the game still had some kind of fail-safe in place that would prevent someone who had basically already had won from losing because of this. That wasn’t true either. It took me a while to set up the circumstances where I had enough spaces left where I would win the game if the auto-finish moved correctly. It didn’t, and I lost.
Thankfully, this dimwitted feature is optional. Just make sure that you turn it off before beginning a game. Some other bugs weren’t so optional. The game crashed on me once while I was trying to select the color of my penguins. Another time, Brian and myself were halfway through a game when it just refused to let us play any further. We still had plenty of spaces left, but the game was busy having a sulk.
Glitches aside, Pingvinas is a lot of fun and I do recommend it. This is the type of strategy game that I would love to play online as often as possible. Which brings me to the main problem with it: the price. 240 Microsoft Points is too much for what it offers. Yes, it is fun, and that’s all that should count. But in reality, most people don’t want to pay 240 Microsoft Points for a game they perceive as being an “amateur game.” Gamers get those for free all over the internet, or on their phones. Meanwhile, you can get some absolutely spectacular games on XBLIG, or elsewhere, for $1. Pricing something like Pingvinas at $3 in a marketplace with such low support as Xbox Live Indie Games seems like suicide to me.
Maybe it shouldn’t be this way, but it is. Gamers have come to expect to pay more and get less from their mainstream games. A full disc release doesn’t typically get you what it used to. Games are smaller, typically easier, and expected to be finished in a week or so. Games like Skyrim are the exception to that, but in general most gamers expect less from their gaming dollars.
The opposite is true of indie gaming. It’s where gamers go when they want to stretch out their budget. Your game might have a value quality higher than the $3 you charge for it, but it will get ignored because that price buys three other games. Considering that some of those $1 games are of unbelievably high quality and playability, seeing games like Pingvinas come out with a 240MSP price tag almost seems arrogant. I personally had no problem paying for it, but my months on XBLIG have taught me that 240MSP games don’t sell and that I was likely to never find anyone other than Brian to play the game with. Such a shame. It’s a really good game, even if the AI makes more mistakes than a condom tester on her ninth trip to the abortion clinic.
Pingvinas was developed by Mobisation Germany
240 Microsoft Points anxious await the hits that Trailer Park King 2 will be bringing in sometime soon in the making of this review.
*jAggy Race is now apparently 99 cents in the iMarket. I swear, it was free yesterday.
A review copy of Pingvinas was provided by Mobisation Germany to IndieGamerChick.com in this review. The copy played by the Chick was purchased by her with her own Microsoft Points. The review copy was given to a friend with the sole purpose of helping the Chick test online multiplayer. That person had no feedback in this article. For more information on this policy, please read the Developer Support page here.
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