is a bit unlike most of the first-person games on the market. Instead of relying on fast-twitch reflexes in a shoot-'em-up style of gameplay, this survival horror series will have you using your mind to solve a lot of puzzles. In fact, for those that like putting their brain to the test with problem-solving skills, Penumbra Collection
is the game for you. Each of the three titles that lie within will sometimes cause your brain to churn, possibly even to the point of frustration. The puzzle-solving antics may even lead you to cheat
by looking for a walkthrough online... really, I only did it to advance quickly for review purposes... um, yeah, that's it... no, really.
The puzzles that lie within vary in nature, but many of them involve more than your typical fetch the key scenarios. Sometimes you will have to reference (and even re-reference) the notes that you collect throughout your adventures because there may be clues within the text... some which may be more obvious than others, but sometimes the clues are hidden enough to make you do a double-take. You'll also encounter physics-based (at least pseudo-physics-based) brain twisters, because you can manipulate much of the environment by picking up and placing objects on top of each other, creating bridges with wooden planks, and much, much more.
Penumbra Collection's first title, Overture, has you thrown into the action as you scramble to find a way to get out of the freezing cold by entering a frozen solid porthole. Once you enter the mines below, the adventure begins with you trying to find your way back out to safety. Unfortunately, your bad luck will have you scrambling for your life as possessed dogs, spiders, and giant worms get in your way. The good news is that this game and the others below do not focus so much on combat (see the horrid combat controls in the Game Mechanics section below) as they do on the puzzles. As parts of the mine collapses behind you, you are forced to continue down a path guided by a man named Red, who seems hell-bent on making you live the last moments of your life in misery.
The second game in the collection, Black Plague, actually picks up where the first title leaves off. Without giving too much away, your escape in Overture doesn't exactly lead you to safety. In the same way that the first game made you rack your brain, Black Plague takes the puzzle-solving one step further. In fact, I found myself loving this game twice as much as the first. It could be that I finally had an idea about how to approach dead ends, but it was refreshing to see some original puzzles emerge instead of rehashing the same old, same old from the first game. The biggest difference between the two games is that Black Plague has you running from baddies instead of trying to fight them, which I found to be even more enjoyable.
You see, Penumbra Collection uses a neat little feature for sneaking that allows to you subtly see in the dark when you crouch and remain still, often shielding you from enemy vision. However, if you happened to stare at an approaching baddie too long, it can cause you to freak out and be spotted, so there is a balance to be learned. There are very few enemies in the games, however, so this technique is not necessarily vital to survival in 95% of the game.
Finally, Penumbra Collection also includes the Part 2 (Black Plague) Expansion, Requiem. Here, you try to delve even further into the abyss of the Tuurngait infection, the virus that has haunted you throughout the series. The borders of reality and psychologically-enhanced visions get even greater, but the enjoyment of twisting your brain doesn't leave you.