There has never been a better time to be a Pokémon Snap fan than during the Switch era. From the excellent New Pokémon Snap delivering a sequel over 20 years in the making to the long-awaited rerelease of the original Pokémon Snap on the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack, it seems like the spin-off series is finally getting the love it deserves. And yet, if all that Pokémon Snap love wasn’t enough, the team at Ghostbutter Games has released their own excellent spiritual successor in the form of Penko Park.
What makes Penko Park immediately stand out is its visual style. In many ways, the game looks like Pokémon Snap meets the aftermath of Jurassic Park. The various creatures have overrun the once tourist-focused island, adding an element of uneasiness to the world. Some critters may look cute, but the vast majority have a creepy, Tim Burton-esque look to them. Combined with a whole group of creatures that can only be discovered by entering each stage’s spirit world, Penko Park undoubtedly has a sense of eeriness that gives the game its own identity.
Penko Park draws heavily from the original Pokémon Snap in its gameplay. Piloting an automatically-driven vehicle with your Penko tour guide, your goal is to explore an abandoned wildlife park, photographing and documenting the various creatures within. Most creatures have multiple emotions and reactions you need to photograph, which can be achieved by using various tools and gadgets you will slowly unlock. Some will be familiar, such as a ball you can throw at creatures to startle them, while others are brand new, like a grabbing claw. As you add more photographs to your compendium, you’ll gain experience, leading to new upgrades and areas to explore.
Thankfully, Penko Park’s gameplay loop is just as enjoyable as the one established in Pokémon Snap. Taking photos of new creatures, discovering each stage’s unique secrets, and upgrading your gear to unlock more interactions is as fun as ever. Despite this, Penko Park does feel lacking in overall content. Each stage is packed to the brim with plenty of creatures, interactions, and secrets to discover, but the total number of stages is disappointingly low. There are only four main stages, which means you are unfortunately going to be revisiting this small number of locales repeatedly. Along with the game's short three to four-hour length, the fourth revisit to a stage can feel more like padding than a meaningful experience.
Despite its repetitiveness and short length, Penko Park is still a wonderfully charming successor to Pokémon Snap. From the delightfully creepy atmosphere to some fresh new upgrade ideas, Penko Park is successful in both honoring its roots and creating its own identity. Fans of Pokémon Snap would be remiss to overlook this game and will surely have a great time discovering everything that Penko Park has to offer.