Penumbra Collection PC
Published by: Paradox Interactive
Developed by: Frictional Games
In 2007 we reviewed Penumbra Overture: Episode One and as the title implied, it was the first part of what was initially intended to be a three part game. Penumbra: Black Plague was the second episode to be released and rather confusingly it was announced that it was the final part with the original plan for three episodes being abandoned. To confuse matters even more a third part was then released. Entitled Penumbra: Requiem, the game claimed to tie up the loose ends that remained from the hurried completion to the original storyline. If you missed out on the three episodes of the Penumbra story the first time around you'll be pleased to learn that Paradox Interactive have bundled all three episodes together in a single package entitled the Penumbra Collection.
In the Penumbra games you play as Philip, a young man who has received a letter from his father. The problem here is that Philip's father abandoned him and his mother three months before he was born. Philip goes in search of his father who he believes to be in an uninhabited part of Northern Greenland in an underground complex. Unfortunately it's far from a happy reunion and Philip soon finds himself in a living nightmare. The basis of the game's storyline is rather promising but throughout the course of the episodes the storyline isn't given the attention it deserves and you'll be disappointed with the lack of depth in this respect.
The Penumbra games are quite unlike any other game on the PC. Essentially the games are a physics-based first person survival-horror adventure. However, the Penumbra games aren't your typical adventure experience, as the puzzles are solved in a more realistic and logical way. Essentially the game uses an advanced physics system that allows you to manipulate items in a similar way to how you would in the real world. You grab hold of objects using your mouse and interact with them in as realistic a fashion as possible. Generally speaking, the puzzle solving is enjoyable. Combat is rather fiddly at times but thankfully it's not something you'll be doing too much of after the first episode.
Although the first game in Penumbra Collection is only a couple of years old, the games do look rather dated now. The graphical quality isn't bad however and one of the nice side effects of the game not being too demanding is that you'll have no problems running the game should your graphics card be more than a few years old.
Thankfully the Penumbra games are subtitled. In fact there's very little speech in the game and most of the dialogue is text only. All of the important information is shown in text. You're notified in text when a journal note has been added and you can recall journal information and personal notes at any time you wish. There are no captions however and deaf gamers will not only miss out on the eerie atmosphere but will also be unaware of the sounds that give away the presence of nearby and approaching enemies. Hearing gamers will be aware from which direction an enemy is approaching but this isn't an advantage that deaf gamers will have and the game is more difficult as a result. However, it's not uncommon for Philip to say something to indicate the presence of a nearby enemy. It's also possible to see an enemy when they are still some way off. With the dogs, for example, you'll see their eyes shining in the dark. There are no gauges to indicate whether you're making much of a noise, which is a little disappointing. However, if you crouch and remain still for a moment, in a location that enables you to be covered from the eyes of a enemy, you'll have a blue tint to your vision which enables you to see a little more clearly in the dark (without the aid of your flashlight or glowing rod) until you begin to move again.
What you're getting in the Penumbra Collection is simply three episodes for one price. The games haven't been unified as such and they all keep their separate identity. Essentially then you could simply read our earlier reviews of the three episodes to get an idea of what each game is about:
All three titles are praiseworthy in some areas and disappointing in others. The ability to solve puzzles in a fairly logical way and the freedom to interact with many things in the game world is actually very refreshing. What the game really needed was a compelling storyline and sadly it never had one. The storyline was never fully fleshed out and felt more like an afterthought. Personally, I had hoped after Penumbra Overture that the final two parts would improve the quality of the Penumbra storyline. Sadly this never happened (in fact Requiem simply gives you an opportunity to try your hands at more puzzles) and whilst these three parts of the Penumbra storyline will undoubtedly be remembered as good games, they certainly won't be remembered for the quality of their plot.