In the Playdate game Penrose, your past has come back to haunt you

Are you more than your past? This seems to be the question at the heart of Penrose, a short but impactful psychological horror game for Playdate by Liza Olson. The answer will ultimately be determined by the choices you make as you try to find your way out of the strange titular town.

Much of the experience in Penrose is exploration, and the game plays from start to finish like an eerie, emotionally challenging walk down memory lane. There are things your character might encounter, like an old playground, that’ll spark a tinge of fondness, while others — a mirror, a locked bedroom door — seem linked to more painful events. As you make your way out of the house where you started and through the seemingly abandoned town, things get progressively weirder.

You’ll encounter some creepy entities, not to mention a deeply unsettling mall that is, for some reason, oozing (I really appreciated the design of this in a love-hate kind of way). The names of the stores in that mall are also pretty fun, each being a play on some real-life chain, like Not Tropic. There are a few puzzles in Penrose, but the catacombs stands out as the only area of any real difficulty. It tripped me up for a good minute, which made me feel all the more clever once I figured out how to crack it.

Penrose beautifully captures the complicated nature of nostalgia, and there are multiple possible endings to the game that play right into that complexity. Penrose is available on itch for Playdate and the Playdate Simulator on PC, Mac and Linux.

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