I have a confession to make. I am really bad at Penny Time. I’m not entirely sure whether it’s the game’s difficulty curve, or the fact that I’m just not very good at these Canabalt-style auto-running platformers (see also Mirror’s Edge and rComplex), but either way, I struggled to get through three of the six stages in this iOS game, developed by Brisbane IV Motion working in collaboration with plastic skateboard manufacturer Penny.
The good news is that my inability to do well at it didn’t stop me from really enjoying my time with Penny Time. The game has a really unique style, great music and solid gameplay.
The premise is that you’re a young skater going through your day, when certain events happen and you use your Penny skateboard to freeze time and skate through the problems caused by these events. Each level presents a different scenario in your life: going to school, being at school, going shopping, skating down the highway, etc.
As you skate, you have to hit targets along the way. Each target can be one of three colours, which represents three gestures that make up your skating moves. The gestures are swipes up, right or down to ollie, hippie or duck respectively.
The scoring system is fairly simple and easy to pick up. Each stage is broken up into sections divided by checkpoints. The checkpoints are signalled by birds who replenish your supply of skateboards, up to a maximum of five. The first section is where you hit the targets to earn points. The more accurate you are, the more points you earn for each target. The next section is where you raise your multiplier, again getting more multiplier for more accuracy. These sections increase your running score, which can then be cashed in in the short cash-in sections.
This is where the scoring twist comes in. Cashing in is optional, and doing so resets your rolling score. Choosing to not cash in will allow you to keep adding to your rolling score and, more importantly, your multiplier. The downside is that if you stack, you lose it all, so there’s a risk/reward factor. Finishing a level automatically cashes your rolling score in.
Visually, the game has a clean, cartoonish style that looks great on the new iPad screen. Cutscene stills have a grainy, painted look that doesn’t scale up so well on the high-resolution display, but it’s nothing to lose sleep over. I actually really like the look of the game, as it lends it a youthful appeal without seeming like it’s trying too hard. One nice visual touch is that all the menus shift slightly when you move the iPad around. It’s purely aesthetic, but gives the menus a nice extra bit of energy.
The music in Penny Time is excellent. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes obvious that there’s a rhythm element to the gameplay. The music underscores this, and your actions add musical effects to the basic track. It’s really catchy, beatsy hip-hop and electronic music, and it suits the game well. I’d honestly love to just get a copy of the soundtrack on its own.
For a game that mostly exists to promote a skateboard manufacturer, Penny Time is pretty great. It doesn’t come across as trying too hard to be cool and appeal to its target audience, and instead becomes something fun for anyone, whether they like skateboarding or not. The game is not without its flaws, mostly the unnecessary photo-bombing minigame at the end of each level, but they can be overlooked pretty easily.
One thing I felt, perhaps because I went into the game knowing this, is that the game really feels like it was made by Australians. There’s just something about the style and setting of it that I don’t think anyone else in the world could have captured. I was worried at first that it might be a little too Triple -J, but it isn’t, and that’s why it succeeds so well. I definitely recommend checking it out.
Penny Time is a universal app for iOS. You can buy it from the App Store for $0.99. A free Lite version is also available.