In Penumbear, you play as a little teddy bear and his firefly-like companion as they explore a dark and creepy castle for reasons unknown. The game, downloadable for iPhone and iPad, is a 2-D platform jumping puzzler where you manipulate shadows and light to bypass obstacles and reach the goal (iPad version reviewed here).
To control the bear, tap the left and right arrows to make him move in that direction. Double tap to run. On the other side of the screen is a big jump button for leaping over obstacles. Tap again to double jump. There are also four smaller buttons that, when lit, allow you to send your firefly buddy over to a nearby switch to turn off and on a light or trigger in the level.
By turning off and on lights, you’ll solve jumping puzzles that involve shadows. Your bear has the power to walk on shadows as if they were ledges, so if you can’t find a way around a giant chasm or other obstacle, find a light somewhere and see if it’ll cast a shadow you can run across. Lights are also handy for distracting pesky moths that can get in your way, as well as vaporizing some enemies, like crawling roaches. Sometimes it’s best to have the lights off, as shadows can block your path, and make it hard to see enemies, blocks, or other traps lurking in the darkness. Find all the blue fireflies in each level and make it to the door to complete that stage.
Really the only problem with Penumbear is the play control, which doesn’t feel quite as responsive on a touch screen. This isn’t much of an issue in certain levels, but in more action-based stages, it can be a bit frustrating. But if you like 2-D platformers with puzzle elements, then you may want to give this bear a try.
If the bear hits any spikes or enemies, he just falls to pieces and utters a cute little ‘ugh’ sound. And that’s about as violent as it gets. Reading skill is helpful for the text hints, but there are also picture cues to tell you what to do. But younger gamers may get frustrated at the play control and more difficult levels. Plus the game has a slightly dark atmosphere that might creep out little ones just a tiny bit.