Two concepts that I never thought would come together: The Odyssey, as in the ancient Greek epic concerning Odysseus’ voyage home after the Trojan War, and Micro Machines-style top down racing gameplay. Even now, having written the preceding sentence, all I can do is marvel that a human being not only made that connection but went ahead and based a game on it.
Full credit to Aurelien Regard for tackling such an improbable concept. Futuristic top-down racer The Next Penelope shot across the Early Access starting line this week, so anyone feeling that the selection of arcade-style racers available on Steam was lacking literary gravitas knows where to look. It’ll set you back £6.99/$9.99/€9.99.
To be fair, this isn’t the first time Greek myth and science fiction have collided. Last September, when Graham was impressed by The Next Penelope at Gamescom, he made the connection with 80s French/Japanese cartoon Ulysses 31, which I dimly remember from my own childhood. And then there’s Dan Simmons’ Ilium, and whatever the less good sequel was called.
Still, none of these, to my knowledge, involved racing opponents, opening up alternate routes using harpoons (Ariadne’s thread, actually, since if you’re going to appropriate one myth why not plunder a few more too), boosting over gaping chasms and helpfully depositing mines in front of opponents. The Next Penelope also features boss battles, which involve racing around large arenas, dodging enemies and projectiles whilst chipping away at them with particular weapons. There’s even one where the perspective flips to a side-on view and offers up some shmup action.
Clearly Aurelien Regard is having some fun with all of this. Back when he was a part of Arkedo Studios he was involved in some entertaining titles on the last generation of consoles along with a brace of puzzlers on the DS. The Next Penelope seems like a new direction, but it looks to be a promising one. Now, where did I leave my Blue Falcon?