Penumbra: Overture – RePlay English Review

Penumbra: Overture

Producător: Frictional Games

Distribuitor: Lexicon Entertainment

Platforme: PC

Gen: Adventure

Pagina Oficială: Vizitează

Data de lansare: 30 martie 2007

Lovecraft Reloaded

A certain writer, who’s been dead for over 70 years, created a series of literary techniques which have been frightening readers to this day. A doomed character narrating through flashbacks sparked by a letter, monsters in the Antarctic, a drip of the occult and a pressing lack of knowledge regarding who’s pulling the strings, all of these printed over a veil of retroactive searching, despite all reasonable warnings. In the 21st century, these patterns can still successfully inject fear into the minds of spectators, readers and gamers alike. That writer was Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

What’s all this got to do with Penumbra: Overture, you’ll ask? The first of three games answers that question plainly: the protagonist is Phillip, a young disillusioned chap who receives a letter from his father– Howard – over 30 years after he was (apparently) declared dead. This letter specifically instructs Phillip to destroy certain documents, but, as expected, the lad gives in to his curiosity and follows all available clues to the last place his father was sighted in – Greenland. After a (predictable) shipwreck, Phillip enters an abandoned mining facility, where the true adventure begins.

This is where you’d most likely expect me to say „yet another point-and-click-adventure game”. You’d be wrong. The game’s tight budget is obvious, thus forcing the producers to appeal to the only valid compensatory solution (as always) – cheap, ingenious ideas. Picture Penumbra: Overture as a Blair Witch Project of video games: without vast resources, nifty „garage tricks” were used. Specifically, the environment is fully-explorable in 3D, thanks to the in-house graphics engine, and the atmosphere is generated through minimalistic means rather than high-end special effects.

„Eppur si muove.”

The game truly shines not in the atmosphere department, however, but the physics, which are simulated by the rather aptly named Newton engine, which allows environmental manipulation just enough to stamp a smile on any Half-Life 2 fan. To open a door, for instance, you won’t just press a key, you’ll have to keep your left-click pressed and move the cursor the way you’d open a door in real life. This procedure gives birth to a series of puzzles which require a realistic logic and a number of everyday items, thinking „What would MacGyver do if he were trapped in a Greenland mining facility?”

Each level is split in two sections – a sort of maze, home to several unusually aggressive, grotesque dogs, and rooms or complexes to which you can get through the maze’s extremities. Most puzzles don’t take place in the labyrinth, which is generally used to emphasize the game’s combat and/or sneaking aspect. If you choose the shadows to avoid your enemies, there’s a stealth indicator when you’re crouching in the darkness (similar to the one in Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay) and some beef jerky to distract them. Phillip can panic if you stare at a monster for too long, thus giving away his position. If you choose to face the beasts, you’ll be slightly disappointed.

First of all, due to the gameplay mechanics (that include weaponry), it’s pretty difficult to swing a hammer, and the strike is highly inaccurate. Second of all, Phillip is not a warrior. He’s the contemporary homologue of Thief’s Garrett, just as fragile and inefficient in melee combat. And when you discover that the dogs are much easier to kill by climbing crates, where they can’t reach you, it all tends to turn into a boring routine. I’m tempted to call this „technique” an exploit, but there’s the unusual possibility of the producers thinking of it as a combat puzzle.

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  • Innovative gameplay
  • Physics-based puzzles
  • Quality horror atmosphere
  • Price


  • Very short
  • Cumbersome combat system
  • Occasionally boring design