We love the holiday season here at Nintendo Life, so how could we pass up the chance to review Christmas Adventure of Rocket Penguin for the Wii U eShop? Released on the eve of the Christmas season as malls across the globe start pumping seasonal tunes to their shoppers, it's nice to see games get in on the fun. Developed and published by Petite Games, Christmas Adventure plays, like some of the publisher's past eShop releases - Super Destronaut and Midnight - much like a browser game. It takes a simple idea and utilizes the GamePad as a way to mimic more accurate mouse controls.
We can start with the overall concept of the game. Christmas Adventure harkens back to Flash games in their heyday, and is a Christmas / Wii U version of the classic launcher games. At the start of each round Rocket Penguin is launched from the left. As your aquatic bird abandons all preconceived notions that penguins will never really soar through the sky and flies across the screen, you are given a "gift meter". You use up the reserves in your gift meter as you draw slopes and bumps in the air to give your little black and white friend assistance on flying as far as his little flippers can take him. You can pick up gifts along your journey and restore your meter in an effort to get further and further. There are, however, various monsters that will eat up this resource.
When the game first starts up you're presented with three options. First up is Classic Mode, which is exactly as it sounds - no bells and whistles, with copious amounts of gifts to keep your meter up. Play this if you want a quick game and nothing else. Then there is Hard Mode. It plays much like Classic but the gifts are sparse, and often placed in precarious locations; you'll want to be careful with how much gift meter you use. Make sure you're drawing little, but maximizing angles to keep Rocket Penguin aloft. Finally there is Multiplayer Mode. Again, similar to Flash games of the past, the multiplayer plays one at a time, allowing you to pass the GamePad between attempts. The penguins are wearing coloured helmets, and you compete against another player in seeing how far you can get your flightless bird.
In a departure from previous games made by Petite Games, Christmas Adventure doesn't sport a minimalistic art style. Instead, everything is given a cartoonish design, with snowmen, frowning and laughing monsters, shining gifts and starry winter night in the background.
The music is an upbeat bell rendition of Christmas classic Deck the Halls. Although it is nice to hear a holiday song while playing a holiday game, since it's the same song every time you start the level it can start to become stale, unfortunately.
The game does sport a decent level of polish and, for the most part, plays fairly well. Nevertheless there are times when the physics of the penguin seem a little off and he starts spiralling out of control. This is most likely due to the GamePad registering a slight uptick at the end of your swooping lines in an attempt to catch your penguin smoothly. It adds a level of frustration to the game but doesn't detract too much. Beyond that the issue is with the lack of variety. It's fun in short bursts, but there isn't really anything there to keep you interested for too long - no new levels, no swappable characters, and the same Christmas music playing over and over. Similar games often offer chances to collect some sort of currency, providing you with a chance to purchase upgrades or cosmetics as a way to keep you around. Unfortunately you won't find that here.
Christmas Adventure of Rocket Penguin is a nice burst of holiday cheer, at a budget price, on the Wii U. With solid gameplay and polished art assets, it's definitely a fun game. However the extreme shortness of it, coupled with the fact that there is very little variety between game modes and level layouts, makes it hard for us to give a strong recommendation.