Attack of the Mutant Penguins
|Attack of the Mutant Penguins|
Original Jaguar cover art by Jolyon Myers
|Platform(s)||Atari Jaguar, MS-DOS|
|Genre(s)||Action, platform, puzzle, real-time strategy, tower defense|
Attack of the Mutant Penguins is a tower defense video game developed by Sunrise Games and originally published by Atari Corporation for the Atari Jaguar first in Europe on December 20, 1995 and later in North America on December 29 of the same year.
When an evil race of aliens catches a glimpse of an animal tv show while monitoring broadcasts from Earth, they decide to disguise themselves as penguins to take over the world. As soon as their plan is revealed, two intergalactic beings are sent to defend the planet alongside the real penguins against the invasion. Attack of the Mutant Penguins was first showcased at the European Computer Trade Show, where attendees mistook it for a Jeff Minter title due to its off-beat style. It is often compared with Lemmings in terms of its structure, in addition to having British humor. Initially an exclusive for the Jaguar, it was later ported by the same team and released by GameTek for MS-DOS in 1996 on Europe and later on other regions in 1997 under the title Mutant Penguins.
Attack of the Mutant Penguins received mixed to positive reception from critics since its release. While it received praise for its graphics and originality, many were divided in regards to the gameplay and others criticized its learning curve. Critics also compared the game with both ToeJam & Earl and Sink or Swim due to its nature.
Attack of the Mutant Penguins is primarily a tower defense game with action, platform, puzzle and real-time strategy elements that is played in a top-down perspective where the player takes control of either Bernard and Rodney, the two playable characters, with each one having their own main weapon and special ability. The main objective of the game is to kill both Alien and Mutant penguins through a variety of ways before they reach and trigger the Doomscale, a weighing scale-like doomsday weapon that was brought to the Earth by them as part of their domination plan. If the evil penguins manage to outweigh the good ones on the scale, it will trigger the weapon, resulting in the destruction of the planet and a game over screen. The game has a total of 20 stages to play through (30 in the MS-DOS version), with each one varying in thematic. Before starting the main mode, players can choose between three levels of difficulty, with higher difficulties altering and randomizing the appearance of important items, while pressing Option allows the player to change the control settings. Besides the main mode, there is also an endless mode called "Pandemonium", where enemies span infinitely until the Doomscale gets triggered by them and only has four stages to play. Progress, high-score and other settings are automatically saved.
After selecting any mode and setting up, the player can choose between either of the two playable characters. Before the beginning of any stage, the player is locked into "Peek Mode", which allows looking at the map layout of the level in order to plan a strategy against the enemy. On every stage, the player has to collect three letters that spells the respective main weapon of the character chosen (a frying pan for Bernard or a baseball bat for Rodney), which are either hidden on traps that need to be built or inside treasure chests that can be opened with the help of small blue creatures scattered on the stage called Gremlins and depending on the number of them being dropped, traps will be built much more quickly and chests can be opened faster than with only one, which takes up to 16 seconds. Once the Gremlins' task is done, they will spread out, leading the player to pick them up again.
Once the player has a weapon, it can be energized with power orbs scattered by hitting either good or evil penguins. Grabbing five orbs in a row energizes the main weapon of either character, allowing them to kill enemies but good penguins can also be accidentally killed if caught into the player's range, and by grabbing ten orbs in a row allows for either Bernard's main weapon to thrown as a boomerang or transform Rodney into a fire breathing creature. Bernard can also find a "Samurai Bonus" power up which will transform him into a samurai and kill enemies by running into them while spinning. Likewise, Rodney can also grab the Samurai Bonus to instantly turn into the fire breathing creature.
At any given time during gameplay, good penguins appear on the playfield and they will either try to reach the Doomscale in order to counteract the enemies' effect on it or fight against them in real-time, but they can also be killed by traps and as the player progresses through the game, more traps are introduced. While treasure chests will contain useful items for the player, a few of them will contain an enemy inside. Also placed in the playfield are switches, which triggers a specific element in the playfield when activated. Alien penguins are distinguished by their multiple outfits such as a cowboy or a musketeer. In some levels, enemies will manage to reach to a "Mutation Station" and transform into their true mutant form, weighing three times more than their regular alien form on the scale. After completing a stage, one of the three bonus round is randomly selected and they range from a Galaxian-like shooter, a outdoor shooting range and a border outpost round. Once the bonus round is finished, a number of Good penguins will be given at the start of each stage on the Doomscale depending on the player's performance.
In the far off galaxy of "Bleurgggh" (Nebula Quadrant), an evil race of unintelligent aliens were monitoring television transmissions of the Earth. At a specific time and channel, they stumble upon a program called The Wildlife Show and after watching a few more TV shows, the aliens decided upon themselves to disguise as penguins in order to take over the planet, since they thought penguins were the "dominant" species. After arriving on the planet, now disguised as penguins, they quickly realized their mistake by disguising themselves as such, since it was unlikely that a penguin could infiltrate into the human race and become president and after realizing their own error, they improvised on their disguises and added costumes to look like humans. When the penguins of the Earth found out about the aliens' plan to take over the Earth disguising themselves as penguins with human costumes, they were not happy and decided to fight against them alongside Bernard and Rodney, two intergalactic beings known for protecting the universe, who were sent out to the planet to stop the invasion of the alien race. After the alien race is defeated, the planet is saved and both Bernard and Rodney return to space until next time.
Development and release
In a response letter by then-Atari UK marketing manager Darryl Still that was published in a December 1995 issue of Edge magazine states that Attack of the Mutant Penguins was developed by Sunrise Games, an independent developer as part of Atari's European center of development, which was established in January of the same year with the aim of working alongside small game developers around the region to create titles for the Jaguar. It was first showcased at Autumn ECTS '95, where people mistook it as a game developed by Jeff Minter and also compared it with Lemmings. It was also covered by the magazine press that were invited to Atari Corporation's UK division.
The game was originally scheduled for an October 1995 release and later for a November release in the same year, with magazines listing it as an upcoming title for both the Jaguar and Atari Jaguar CD, but these plans were cancelled at some point during development and the game was instead released as a cartridge. An internal document from Atari Corp. showed that development on the game was completed on December 11 1995, a few days before its release on European regions. Dan Hunter, who was involved as a graphic artist in titles such as BioShock 2 and Dark Sector, worked as an junior artist for the game during the middle of the 1990s and created the sprites for the Gremlins by using an Amiga 500 and Deluxe Paint 3. It was one of his first works in the video game industry. The game was also showcased during the Fun 'n' Games Day event hosted by Atari.
When previewed in their December 1995 issue, Miss Demeanor of GameFan critizised the game's control when players are in a hurry but added that "there is so much fun and action in AMP that you won't care". She then stated that "if you've got a Jaguar, get Attack of the Mutant Penguins". Game Players praised the graphics and animations when previewed in their January 1996 issue, referring it as "a must-have for Jaguar owners".
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