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Attack of the Mutant Penguins

Without repeating the story with too much detail, the general idea is that the evil aliens from outer space decided to conquer our measely planet. Their studies of our planet showed that we were a world of wingless birds, and they decided that world domination would be a cinch! Unfortunately, their studies were just based on a wildlife show they managed to pick up, so when their ships arrived, they realized their terrible mistake. There was no way they could infilitrate our society, win awards, kiss babies, participate in various home shopping clubs, etc., without being spotted. After all, they were dressed up like penguins!

Recanting on my "without ... too much detail" theory, the penguins decided they'd attack after all, and went about developing a series of new disguises to fool us foolhardy Earthlings. However, the disguises weren't as good as their penguin disguises, and they decided that both is better than either, so they take to their invasion as penguins in various theatrical costumes and whatnot. They were ready to take over the Entire World until... our two heroes got in the way.

Interstellar superheroes (or at least infamous at places of illrepute), Benard, a round pan wielding fellow with no arms or legs, and huh got me, a pear (well, ok, he's not a pear) wielding a baseball bat (also with no arms and legs, but with a cute tail), both arrive to save the day. They can't resist saving a world in distress, so the adventure begins.

The title screen starts out with a meteor smashing into muck or something, and the impact put up the "Attack of the Mutant Penguins" title on the screen. There is some supernaturally bad horror-theme music playing as well. I can't tell if it is SUPPOSED to be this bad, if it was a nefarious (I was told I had to use that word somewhere in this review) attempt at 50's horror-movie-based-theme-music-and-kareoke, perhaps someone woke up on the wrong side of the music editor... OR, God (or any deity of your choosing, omitting the noun if you follow Atheism, Shintoism, or whatever, I can't please all the groups) help us if it was a serious attempt at sound.

From the title screen, there are the various standard options of control movement, volume, and level select. Of the level selections, you can play a regular game, or, if you prefer, practice indefinately on the Pandemonium levels. These levels just keep on going and going. What of them keeps going and going? Keep reading:

The game is like this. You are Benard or the other guy. You start out with no weapons or anything of value, with the intent on stopping the mad rush of penguins (who are intent on simply a mad rush). To your aid, there are "gremlins", cute little furry things like those you'd find stuck on a monitor o other piece of computer furniture in the standard office setting. Gremlins open up the plethora of treasure chests, equip traps, and give you points merely for having them.

You have to capture the squirmy little fellows first, but after you get them you can hold onto them for the entire level or let them work their magic on a treasure chest or a trap. The more gremlins you drop at either, the faster the chest is opened or the trap is enabled. If you put an overkill amount of gremlins on any given trap or chest, you sometimes get a bonus item. Bonus items range from sticks of glue to sticks of dynamite, the glue forming a line on the ground that prevent the penguins from passing, and the dynamite blows penguin pieces all over the screen. There are more items, but I can't give all of the game away...

There are also good penguins to assist you in the game. The good penguins may come out of a chest, be trapped behind a wall (that you must flip a lever to release), or just wandering around. Good penguins do a number of things, such as picking a fight with bad penguins (it is kind of comical to watch, you can tell there is a social problem developing when the a good guy and a bad guy meet up with each other), getting in the way, or providing "crystals" (more on that later). They also, most importantly, make their way to the Doomscale, which is also detailed later.

The bad penguins are also wandering around, in their various disguises, such as Juliet of Shakespearean fame, Elvis, cowboys, and lots of other neat outfits. They are very intelligent little buggers (although perhaps a tad bit far-sighted due to their managing to run into traps often), and will have various ways of getting to this Aforementioned Doomscale. They will fly in a space ship, build a bridge, teleport, get in a bubble and float, even (dare I dare say it?) walk to their destination. No rightous teenager would be seen doing this, but the penguins don't seem to have any problem (perhaps they are over their fear of peer rejection) and will often walk straight to their destination.

But how do you, the infamous visitor of illreputes, save the day? Well, when the gremlins pop open the treasure chests for you, a letter may appear. There is a BAT and a PAN, and you then collect the appropiate letters for each. After you spell the entire word, you get a bat or a pan. Now you get to beat the penguin baddies!

In addition to being able to beat birds senseless, when you hit them, five "crystals" pop out of them. The more of these you collect, the stronger your weapon will be. However, if you swing your weapon during the collection time, you will turn forfeit the benefit of some additional crystals you may get. What this means is that you have 9 crystals and are trying to get 15; you bap someone out of frustration and you then realize that you need to collect even more crystals, since swinging your weapon used up some of the "charge" that you were saving. You have to replenish by beating more penguins... Your best bet is to just beat everything in site and then go spazztic trying to collect as many crystals as you can, in an attempt to supercharge your weapon. You can KILL the penguins once you upgrade your weapon in this fashion. Be careful, because if you hit the good penguins, they will give out crystals too, but if you hit them with a supercharged weapon, you'll kill them!

The traps in the game are just that--traps set up for evil penguins to get killed in. Each trap has a various efficiency rating and various ways of dealing death to the penguins. Both good and bad penguins can get caught in these, but more often than not it's the bad guys that suffer.

There are some things in the games that aren't traps, but get utilized by either you or the bad penguins all the same. There are teleporters, sometimes a jukebox (to which the Elvis penguins will shake their stuff if you turn it on), weird creatures that like to eat penguins, and the Mutation Station, which resembles a ticket booth and, well, I can't describe it. Anyway, the bad penguins get their tickets, enter the Mutation Station center, and then... get mutated into MUTANT PENGUINS! These guys are three times as large and big and nasty and mean as the original ruthless avians from space. These guys make it a point to get to the Doomscale as soon as possible, as is explained next.

The Doomscale is a big head with a gaping mouth, with scales on either side of it. The bad penguins desperately want the scale to be activated, and need to jump into the mouth to get to their side of the scale, where their weight will press the Doomscale Activation Button (or as I call it, DA BUTT) and the game ends in a hurry. Your penguins are also racing to get there, as each penguin you have on your side counteracts any penguins they have on their side. Unless its a Mutant Penguin, which counts as three bad guys! You will find yourself racing to the entrance of the Doomscale device to prevent these guys from jumping in (beating them up and trying to collect crystals, all at the same time) because more often than not, you don't have nine good penguins handy to counterbalance three Mutants.

Lucky for us there isn't a Mutation Station on each level. If you were fortunate enough to destroy/maim/embarrass all of the bad penguins on that level, you get to move on to the next one. Effectively counterbalancing the Doomscale will also net you this win, but there must be no more bad penguins running aroound.

Every few levels you get to play a bonus round, for a chance to "win" more good penguins on the later levels. Learn to do well and you won't have the game suddenly end when you realize there are 63 bad penguins on the way and you only have 2 or so good ones to block them with...

The bonus levels are three. I can't remember the names of each, but I'll describe each of them to you (briefly): One consists of a shooting range and penguins flying from left to right (or right to left) at high speeds, sometimes bouncing across, other times just counting on their propellered beanies to carry them across. Another consists of Space Invaders a-la Penguins, and the last but not least being peguins floating past you on ice flows, making faces at you. It's your job to lob things at them to make sure they don't get away with that heinous (another word I was told to use) crime.

The music in the game is nil except for the title screen and the jukebox. Neither of which are very good, so I'll just lump it into a "sound catagory". The actual sound effects in the game were good--bapping, whapping, explosions, trap sounds, monster sounds, gurgling sounds, etc., were all done very well. While this isn't Alien Vs. Penguins, the sound effects are very good for the game.

The graphics are very good too, and the speed is good despite all the sprites that may be on the screen at any given time. Occasionally there'll be some slowdown but that quickly passes, as everyone is running in different directions and would soon be off your screen. The view is top down, similar to Cannon Fodder. The background graphics are excellently detailed as well, ranging from snow, to jungle, to weird skulls in dirt.

There is also a witty saying at the beginning of each level. The game play is easy to understand, and there is "on-line" help in the game when you first play it (it can be turned on and off). Anything you don't know will probably be loosely covered enough to get you to know the basics and learn on your own. These help items appear when you grab a gremlin, open a chest, get a bat, etc.

I haven't won the game yet (just ask Wes Powell of my gaming habits), but I have played it many times on many occasions. There is definate replay value in this game, as you can do the Pandemonium levels or just plan start over from the beginning. There are different skill levels as well, so you can test your luck (or skill) and see how well you do.

I give the game an 8 out of 10, judging everything together. The game was fun to play and it was amusing to watch penguin parts go a-flying when they met their untimely demise. The music was lacking, but after a while you don't even notice there failed to be any music. Take note of my strategic use of not having a double negative in that last sentence.

If you can get the game at a price you feel comfortable paying, then by all means buy it. The game is a good addition to any Jaguar collection.