The charmingly simple story of Penguin Patrol revolves around a young Eskimo who witnesses a greedy walrus slugging along with a sack full of distressed penguins. The walrus is obviously looking forward to a nice big dinner, but it's up to you to prevent him from getting that far.
You accomplish this noble goal by solving various isolated puzzles, each of which centres around you manoeuvring the gentle Eskimo over sheets of brittle ice, rescuing penguins along the way. It starts off simply enough, but it's not long before the game becomes a very satisfying challenge.
Movement is grid-based, and your Eskimo takes one step in any of the four cardinal directions each time you tap the D-Pad. That's about the only thing thing you can do, control-wise, so it will become quickly apparent that Penguin Patrol is a game of brainpower rather than reflexes.
Each time you step off of a square of ice, it shatters, and you can't backtrack. You'll need to plot the best route across the ice in order to rescue the requisite number of penguins. Once you do, you'll still have to reach the exit, so planning ahead is absolutely necessary; if you do destroy a path you need, you can use the L button to take back your last step, or reset the level entirely from the start menu.
Before long, the game starts throwing you curve balls in the form of ice squares that behave differently, such as being able to sustain two steps over them rather than one, or which propel you endlessly forward until you hit an immoveable obstacle. Eventually even the penguins — who previously just sat still on the ice and waited for you to rescue them — will find new behaviours open to them as well. Each complication of the game forces you to reconsider and adapt past strategies, and the difficulty — while rather high over all — does ramp up at a fair pace.
The game features 59 main levels, followed by a handful of bonus levels which brings the total up to 78. It's unlikely that you'll solve many of these levels your first time through, and even if you do there are better star ranks to reach for, which helps to extend the life of the game.
Unfortunately, that's all there is. It's a simple game with a clear premise and excellent puzzle design, but if you're not particularly interested in better star ranks or bonus levels, it's likely that the game won't remain in your rotation for long.
The presentation of Penguin Patrol is serviceable, but that's about all. The music is calm and soothing, but not particularly memorable. The visuals are appealingly cartoony, but your character moves a bit too slowly, interfering with the pace of the game as you might be thinking well ahead of he is, and needing to wait for him to catch up.
Penguin Patrol is absolutely a good game, but it does feel a bit light, though it's worth remembering it's 200 Points. It promises to deliver a set of great puzzles, and it does that much without question.
Penguin Patrol aims to provide one thing: a well made game of clever movement puzzles. At that, it absolutely succeeded. There's really nothing more to it than that, however, and the experience as a whole does feel rather slight. For those seeking a quick but challenging puzzle game to play in short bursts, this is a solid download. For anybody seeking something with more depth or engagement, however, it might leave you cold.