[Updated] Penko Park: If Pokémon Snap Wasn’t Chill Enough For You

I’m always down for a photo-focused game (and I have the receipts to prove it). So when Penko Park’s team sent me a review code for the game’s Switch launch, I snapped at the chance. The game isn’t a new one, having release two years ago on PC. However, there’s a certain rightness about using the Switch like a camera that makes this iteration of the title super satisfying. I’ve only played through the first two levels, a forest and volcano setting respectively, but I’m looking forward to seeing the rest.

If you’ve never encountered Penko Park before, the easy elevator pitch is that it’s Pokémon Snap, with an art style that looks like Rousseau’s wild cats pounced into an N64. Seriously. The comparison is made with a lot of indie photography games, but the apple really didn’t fall far from the tree here. The game comes complete with a rounded wagon to ride through the park in, and, following the tracks, you snap pictures of the various unusual denizens. This gets more sophisticated along the way with branching paths, equipment, like the Penko Ball, to help you get the creatures’ attention, and a nice photo album to keep all your memories in.

The subtle difference I enjoy about Penko Park is that it is unbelievably chill. Instead of being graded at the end of a run, the game simply picks the best photos to insert in your book of memories. And the first time I ran out of film, my helpful Penko Park guide gave me 10 more snapshots.

I’m having a great time so far, and I get the feeling it’s going to get a bit spookier as I go along. But at this point I recommend photo fans, or anyone looking for a relaxed game to curl up with this fall, check it out on Switch.

[Update 10/12]

I recently rolled credits on Penko Park, and definitely wasn’t wrong about things getting a bit creepy.

Unlocking the spirit realm to take photos of unexplained ghosts in each level, creaking down the trail of a dilapidated village, and casual hints of atrocities committed are some of the things players can look forward to in this otherwise cheery photo adventure.

But don’t worry! Penko Park doesn’t transform into some kind of horror ride. While its tone shifts slightly in places, this isn’t a game to keep you up at night. And even though I’m official “done” I still want to to grab my camera to capture images of the more elusive park inhabitants.

I recommend this game to:

  • Fans of Pokémon Snap
  • Photography fiends
  • Players that like a hint of spooky
  • People that thought Fatal Frame would be better with a pastel palette
  • Anyone who appreciates that chill could mean laid back or creepy
  • Switch owners
  • Young or old gamers
  • Fans of collecting hats
  • People against oppression

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