Iwatobi Penguin: Rocky x Hopper

Iwatobi Penguin: Rocky x Hopper - PlayStation (1998)

Iwatobi Penguin: Rocky x Hopper (イワトビペンギン ロッキー&ホッパー)
Developer: F2 Company
Release Date: 1998
Platforms: PlayStation

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An iwatobi penguin is what’s known in English as a Southern rockhopper penguin, known for their large bushy eyebrows and ornate head feathers. Rocky and Hopper are two computer generated penguins created for a series of hair product commercials by Japanese cosmetic company Shiseido. They’re cute and amusing, thanks to their lively expressions and ridiculous feathers, which obviously made them good mascots but apparently also qualified them for a video game. Focused primarily on multiplayer, with the support for the multitap for four players, it offers several types of minigames.

The most prominent are various types of races, like Chicken Race, where you slide as far as you can before falling off a cliff, but also includes Track & Field-type events like a high jump. Also included is one called Clam, where you need to grab shells that have washed up along the shore without getting swept up by the wave, and Dance, which is a reflex-based dancing competition. In Crown, you push down other players on a small board, with the victor of the most recent push getting a crown. In Juggling, you need to tap the buttons in rhythm to help your character move forward in a small race, where missing a beat will get you squashed by an enormous bowling ball.

A single player mode features plenty of voiced CGI cutscenes, as Rocky and Hopper made their way around an iceberg while being challenged by various other arctic-based characters, including a large skeleton parrot. Most of the music is based on 1970s American pop music, with classics like “Do the Hustle” and “Staying Alive”, rearranged for the PlayStation’s sound chip. Also included are the actual television advertisements, if you’d like to see the characters’ origins.

The package was popular enough for a sequel, Iwatobi Penguin Rocky & Hopper 2: Tantei Monogatari (“Detective Story”), as the penguins learn to fly, move to a city, and begin a detective agency. This includes a new story mode and brand new minigames, including one where you need to climb a building by mashing buttons while dodging falling debris, or dial telephone numbers by reading cards that move around quickly, making them hard to see.

As with most of these types of minigame compilations, the strength relies on the quality of the games themselves, which are a little too simple here. Generally they aren’t too hard, but a few, like the Dance game, have some comically difficult timing requirements that make them way too frustrating. Cute penguins, though.

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