REVIEW: Promenade bursts with ingenuity and creativity

"He's got a rocket. So unfair..."

19 March 2024
by zjmaster 4
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What are the limits of your imagination?

One of the greatest elements of videogames (and life) is that a surprise may come out of nowhere and brighten your day. A 2D platformer that evoked the same emotions I felt when playing Super Mario Galaxy for the first time, Promenade is a euphonic symphony that hits all the right notes by combining accessibility, challenge, enjoyment, and never-ending creativity.

A Boy and His Poulp
A Boy and His Poulp

The Great Elevator is broken, and with the help of a poulp we must find all the cogs to fix it. Under that premise, we explore a colourful world full of challenges and new ideas at every corner. In fact, the last statement is no exaggeration: both the creativity and new trials never stop appearing, to the point that even the last level – and the final boss – had completely new concepts that had not appeared before in the game.

Every cog is behind a new and fun challenge
Every cog is behind a new and fun challenge

The sheer amount of ingenuity flourishing at every new screen in Promenade had me smiling over and over again. It honestly felt like playing Super Mario Galaxy due to the sheer density of new concepts that would appear every so often. So many times I tried solving a problem the same way I did before, only to get stuck. Instead, the game forces you, in a whimsical way almost, to think outside the box.

How can I jump across the gap?
How can I jump across the gap?

I barely beat a penguin in a race and now he wants to challenge me again, but with a rocket in his back!? How can I beat him? What if I roll here? How can I jump higher? Can I skip this section of the race? As you progress through the world, you learn to use your tools in better ways, and suddenly obstacles that seemed impossible turn out to be achievable.

I barely beat him and then he wanted a rematch!?
I barely beat him and then he wanted a rematch!?

Not only do you learn to use your current tools in better ways, you also acquire a handful of new powers as you go. For instance, using your friend poulp to not only grab enemies but to also reach out hooks opens a new window of options for exploring.

All hail the Omnihook!
All hail the Omnihook!

As you visit different worlds, challenges appear unannounced and reward the player’s careful attention to environmental cues. Why does this key have a different shape? Does this flower need water? But there is no water in this level… And my favorite one: how do you enter a house with no doors if you can only enter through doors? Honestly, when I solved this last one, I had to pause the game for a minute and congratulate both myself for trying something absurd, and the creators for their stark ingenuity.

I think I saw a key with that shape somewhere else...
I think I saw a key with that shape somewhere else...

Challenges are so inviting and well designed in Promenade, nailing that “one-more-try” feeling, that I would stay with them for a while even if I had the cogs needed to move to the next part. I was just enjoying the game, laughing at missing the last step in a precise platforming section and knowing that I was the only one to blame. Levels with careful design, enough cues to understand what to do, and quick respawning were essential to having a blast throughout the whole adventure.

Cucoos!
Cucoos!

Accessibility was another vital factor in the enjoyment of Promenade. For example, you may activate periodic healing so that you don’t have to worry about running out of hits in the middle of a long and difficult boss battle. Being able to adjust factors like those help games like Promenade reach a bigger audience – although, even then, some barriers are very hard to overcome.

La Persistencia de la Memoria (Da Pinchi's version)
La Persistencia de la Memoria (Da Pinchi's version)

The creativity was also present in the level design. At the moment you least expect, you are in a stealth level, hiding in barrels (sorry, no cardboard boxes here). Later, you innocuously stumble upon a version of Dalí’s “La Persistencia de la Memoria” or an Andy Warhol painting, only to eventually find yourself inside other paintings! There’s also a moment towards the end where a whole level was so creative that Mario (or Luigi) wouldn’t have been out of place. Even the mini-games, albeit short, were refreshingly inventive.

SNAKE!!! I mean, MOLE!!!
SNAKE!!! I mean, MOLE!!!

Finally, Promenade rewards you so much for thinking outside the box that, even when you thought you just made a mistake, it turns out a door to a new challenge or solution just opened up. It is so hard to nail how to reward ingenuity, but Promenade does it in spades.

The Lady and the... Scargot? I solved this puzzle by failing another. A perfect example that 'failing' is just another word for 'learning'.
The Lady and the... Scargot? I solved this puzzle by failing another. A perfect example that 'failing' is just another word for 'learning'.

The music is fine overall, but some levels have great tunes. Some challenges are slightly tedious, too, but you can always skip them or come back later. The game looks quite pretty and the character design is very whimsical, presenting (among its highlights) plankton bellboys and lobster cheerleaders.

How come levels like this, or Celeste's "Celestial Resort" are always some of the best?
How come levels like this, or Celeste's "Celestial Resort" are always some of the best?

Summary

Full of secrets, imagination, and challenges, Promenade is the surprise game Nintendo Switch owners never expected to receive. If you love Nintendo EAD’s work on Mario, you will adore Promenade for boasting the same level of creativity and joy. Definitely a must-have in the collection of every platformer fan.

About zjmaster

zjmaster

Christian’s a fan of long lists, Pokémon, SMT, Advance Wars, Xenoblade Chronicles, Splatoon, S/JRPGs, VNs...

When not solving mysteries in Ace Attorney or doing supports in Fire Emblem, he can be found doing math or learning languages.

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Comments (4)

totodile

27d ago

Woah, this was not on my radar at all. Thanks for the review.


autumnalblake

27d ago

I'll have to check it out! Thanks zjmaster for bringing it to my attention!


zjmaster

27d ago

@totodile

You're welcome! It wasn't on my radar either! I was so happy I got to review it and it caught me by surprise.


You're welcome! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.