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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Amazing Penguin — The best game you’ve never heard of

By CAPTAIN STITCH - Now I KNOW you haven’t heard of this one!

A Perplexing Puzzler Proudly Props Penguin Protagonist Prince Pendrich? Released in 1990 by Natsume (Harvest Moon, Pocky & Rocky) for the Game Boy. Amazing Penguin is a severely overlooked puzzle game with a playstyle akin to no other. The name might be mistaken for one of the multitude of those silly mascot shovelware titles that pose as games, but nothing could be further from the truth. The protagonist is simply a penguin, and that penguin is simply…Amazing.

Why should you play this game? In a world full of fantastic puzzlers, a lot has been repeated. True classics like Sudoku or Sokoban will always be around, but Amazing Penguin is something that’s never been seen before or since. For better or for worse, you’ll leave entertained.

Amazing Penguin boxart box art Game Boy


Like most Game Boy games at the time and nearly all puzzle games at any time, the story to this game is not actually present in the game. However, a story does exist and can be found in the instruction manual, remember those? According to the instruction manual, the “kingdom of the penguins” has been invaded by a malicious wizard, named Borbon, who has enchanted everyday objects (pencils, erasers, crayons) to block the many passageways of the realm so that no one can go anywhere and everything grinds to a halt. It is up to our penguin hero, Prince Pendrich, to defeat the evil wizard and restore order to the world.

Despite being only about a paragraph and never actually appearing in the game except for the “final boss”, the effort to include any story at all when most puzzle games aren’t expected to is admirable in a sense.


This puzzler features 40 levels of unique gameplay with a top-down perspective. Each level is divided into a certain number of panels, held together by black and white “seals”. Your goal is to remove all of the black and white seals and flip all the panels. All the while enemy characters are chasing you down, but must turn at every line they come to. Although there are no weapons, the seals you remove offer up certain benefits. White seals when destroyed cause all the enemies to move backwards. Black seals when destroyed have no special effect but can alternatively be kicked (and thus destroyed) to defeat incoming enemies on the same line as you. White seals cannot be kicked. Once the last seal on a panel is removed, all the enemies who are touching that panel when it then flips are immediately defeated. Of course enemies will regenerate after some time but a modestly quick player will never be overwhelmed.

Amazing Penguin Game Boy gameplay level

Controlling the character is fine, although it can get a tad slippery when running from multiple enemies and going for precise turns. Press A to kick black seals, and B to destroy white seals and black if you so choose. The overall level layout and the lines you move on might remind one of childhood games like Pac-Man Tag. Some panels when flipped will display a set of images culminating in some delightful picture art of the main character once every panel is flipped. There’s a lot of creativity here, despite the simple controls.

There is also a time limit here that ties into the ending point score you receive for a level. You receive points for destroying seals and enemies as well as 10 points for every three seconds left of the timer. For a majority of the game the timer won’t have any impact, but the last five stages will really require you to hustle. Every 10,000 points nets you a 1-up, but with a password being given out every four stages, your final score won’t matter as much.


The soundtrack is small with many repeating tunes that in and of themselves are short loops endlessly repeating. It’s a very happy sounding OST composed by Iku Mizutani and Koichi Yamanishi. Both of which also worked on Shadow of the Ninja and Shatterhand, although you’d be forgiven for not knowing what I'm talking about as those are also relatively obscure games.

In a strange way, the entire OST reminds me of the opening stage of Nintendo’s Mole Mania, which is another great puzzle game I'll review someday. But to be frank, no song here is revolutionary and they may actually be counterproductive, as a series of very short happy go lucky songs can easily drive the player insane when stuck on a particularly grueling stage. Not optimal for a puzzle game. Having said that, the soundtrack is still enjoyable for what it is and my personal favorite is the track for Stage 4.


The Penguin character is cute and so are the enemy sprites, everything looks really clean and you can easily distinguish what you can walk on versus what you can’t. White seals and black seals are also very easily distinguishable. This is a game that revolves around a simple and clean gimmick so naturally there isn’t too much graphic art, but the occasional picture panel levels that feature some sprite art are well done and exude a certain charm, despite being in black and white. To quickly note, the box art has practically nothing to do with the game other than featuring a penguin on it, but like other games at the time it was industry standard to misrepresent these things. The only indication of typical Game Boy kitschiness would be the final boss looking a bit clunky, but other than that the presentation here is most satisfactory.


By all standards, this game is moderately easy for the first 35 levels, and hard in the last five.

Our penguin protagonist dies in one hit, and enemies start to respawn after five seconds or so. Sometimes new enemies will spawn even if no other enemies have been killed, quickly filling the surrounding panels. Since enemies must turn at every new line they meet, strategic players can devolve methods to avoid enemy encounters and maneuver themselves to remove the next seal in sight with relative ease. There really shouldn’t be any frustration felt even when encountering the first 30 stages; every level’s game field is small enough so that the player can usually see all of it on one screen. Although this may be debatable on an actual Game Boy, modern hardware has made it easier than ever to see where you're going. The music may get annoying if you get stuck on a certain stage, but you can always turn it off. It is only in the last five to ten stages that things really start to get difficult, as stages get bigger and more enemies appear. But it’s mainly the timer that suddenly becomes so short that you have to run the entire time to clear switches and avoid enemies before the timer runs out and you lose a life, that makes things so difficult.

You may have to be persistent with the final couple of stages, you may choose to disregard them completely, but the rest of the game will be as satisfying as a fresh spring breeze.


Unique puzzle gimmick
Simple controls
Unaffected by age, still as fun today as back then
Passwords given every four stages for quick playthroughs
Levels are short and sweet, mostly
Easily emulated with no graphics lag
Penguin theme!
Difficulty ramps up high in final stages
One-hit KOs
Cute, but possibly irritating music
Harder to find original Game Boy cartridges

Concluding Thoughts

Amazing Penguin is a marvelous game if you're looking for an innovative puzzle game or just a quick palate cleanser between more demanding games. Regardless, the fact that this game has been forgotten to the hands of time is inexcusable, but reminds us that there are gems hidden across every system's library, especially the often overlooked ones like the Game Boy in these modern times. Suppose you don’t care for puzzles and just like penguins, then check this game out. Its pudgy protagonist won’t disappoint.

Captain Stitch is the Venerable Leader of the Gordo. You may remember him from his memorable appearance in Kirby's Dream Land 2, he wasn’t invited to the Forgotten land, even though those mutant Gordo were. But that was nearly 27 years ago now, and so he has a lot of time on his hands, despite not having any. Are you a fan of puzzle games, if so what are your favorites? Do you think you’ll give Amazing Penguin a try, have you ever heard of it? The last game Captain Stitch reviewed ended up getting a remake about a year or two later, do you think the same could happen here?

For an example of a silly mascot shovelware title that does have a penguin for a protagonist, see Percy's Predicament.
Captain Stitch also believes you've never heard of Tomato Adventure.

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