Penny’s Big Breakaway Review – Big ideas and big ambitions

Reviewed March 12, 2024 on PS5


PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X|S


February 21, 2024


Private Division


Evening Star

Penny’s Big Breakaway, is developed by Evening Star and published by Private Division. Evening Star was formed by fellow Melbournian Christian Whitehead, perhaps best known for his mobile ports of classic Sonic The Hedgehog titles, or his contribution and the use of his ‘Retro Engine’ for Sonic Mania. In fact, at one point his studio was being considered for the development of SEGA’s Sonic Superstars.

We adored our preview of Penny’s Big Break Away, so I was very excited to check out the finished product. Production-wise the final game is a cut above what you would usually expect from a small studio. It is a game big on ambition, but it is also attempting to crack the 3D Action Platform game genre, a genre flooded with legendary games, the good, the bad, the indifferent and everything in between. So how does it stack up?

Meet the game’s namesake character Penny, a street performer with big dreams. When Eddie the Emperor calls for new Palace Court Performers, we jump the queue (during the tutorial section) and we encounter a ‘cosmic’ string that transforms Penny’s Yo-Yo (remember those?) into a living creature. We end up on the run, with a Penguin army ready to attack on sight. The rest, as they say, is history.

For the most part, Penny’s Big Breakaway is an exceptionally well-crafted game. In a lot of ways, it had to be, because to make any impact in this genre at all requires imaginative level design, refreshingly different mechanics, an exceptional soundtrack and a solid game engine to run on. In this case, Evening Star has managed to exceed expectations, most of the time. Plus, it has gameplay in spades to back up the newest character on the platforming block.

The stages in Penny’s Big Breakaway are packed with colour, sound and action. Featuring a mix of traditional platforming sections, with some other more imaginative sections and challenges designed to make the most of all of the different moves available to Penny and her Yo-Yo.

When it comes to Penny’s Big Breakaway, in relation to gameplay, the best way I can explain it is that it makes an interesting use of momentum. There aren’t any enemies to jump on, or ‘kill’ per se. The closest you come to that are swarms of Penguins that appear from time to time to chase you. If more than a few get hold of you, it’s a life lost. I found them a tiny bit annoying for a while, but their main purpose is to make you pick up the pace and try to get away… “gotta go fast” as one famous gaming hero might say.

Sure, you can swing your Yo-Yo to try to get them off your back, but they just keep coming in some sections. It is a very different way of guiding the player to do what the designer wants them to do, making the most of the mechanics available and the engine the game runs on. Rev up the Yo-Yo like it’s a Sonic the Hedgehog Speed Dash and get gone, hitting the ramps and outrunning the little devils is usually the best bet.

Other examples of gentle guidance are as basic as leaving us a trail of currency to pick up along the way. The more overt examples are running into characters who provide random tasks, which coincidentally leads us through the next section of the course. There are well-thought-out and intuitive level designs here, providing multiple routes.

Penny’s Big Breakaway is not perfect all of the time though. I ran into more than a few situations where frustration started to set in. It felt like some checkpoints weren’t placed properly in between tricky sections, for example. I am unsure if the generally excellent design wavered, or whether the game testers were just lords of gaming that influenced the difficulty of some parts.

There were times when it felt more like luck rather than skill regarding survival. One experience that stands out was an early boss battle that consisted of fast sections trying to outrun a giant ball of Penguins. The problem was trying to pick up the power-ups necessary along the way to survive. This section also highlighted the sometimes finicky nature of the controls and I felt like it ruined what would have been a wicked fun boss battle otherwise.

Fortunately, although there are some frustrating sections in Penny’s Big Breakaway they are the exception, not the norm. For the most part, the arrangement and design of the areas is spot on. It also helps, that even when you lose all your lives, you can restart from the last checkpoint (you lose your score though) rather than from the start of a course, which is a nice touch. If it were not for that I would have been tempted to put down the controller and walk away.

Where Penny’s Big Breakaway stands out above the crowd is the striking visual and sound design. Everything from the menu screens onward feels classy with an attention to detail that is truly admirable. Each zone brings a fresh environment with new obstacles and challenges that truly set one apart from the next and make a playthrough worthwhile. All backed by an excellent soundtrack by fellow Sonic Mania alumni Tee Lopes and Sean Bialo.

Overall, I enjoyed my time playing through Penny’s Big Breakaway. Evening Star has done a wonderful job creating a vibrant colourful world packed with varied unique challenges throughout. For the most part, the mechanics and different moves available to Penny keep the game feeling fresh and a cut above its peers most of the time.

As much as I enjoyed the game and the characters, it’s not always great. There are instances where the controls and abilities were a bit finicky in the moments that mattered the most. Whether by design or oversight, more than a few sections can be more patience-testing than fun.




  • Vibrant, colourful art style
  • Innovative level design and mechanics
  • Wicked soundtrack with banging tunes


  • Can veer into frustrating territory at times
  • Fixed camera angles can make a few sections very tricky

Penny’s Big Breakaway is big on ambition, for a studio the size of Evening Star they have turned in a title that is a cut above the 3D action adventure norm, most of the time. At its best, Penny’s is vibrant, colourful and packed with imaginative ideas and mechanics. The use of momentum feels natural and the level design feels intuitive. The overall presentation is excellent and is backed by a banging soundtrack that brings the game to life. That said, there are moments where Penny’s Big Breakway crosses the threshold from difficult/tricky and into frustrating territory. Whilst not bad enough or frequent enough to ruin the experience, it did create moments where I felt I needed to put the controller down and take a break. Overall though, in a genre flooded with competitors, if you are looking for something different, Penny’s Big Breakaway could be just the ticket.