Promenade – PS5 Review

Promenade, on the face of it, is a cutesy platformer. Just like you should never judge Lethal Weapon by Danny Glover, don’t assume Promenade is a game aimed at the younger player. Yes, it’s all pastel shades and fluffy pillow forts, but in fact it shares many traits with Metroidvania-type games. You’ll be unable to access parts of the first level, or indeed the hub area until you’ve unlocked various abilities. This from Nantes-based dev Holy Cap is their debut game, but we suspect they’re more than mere novices given the aplomb they’ve acquitted themselves with here.

The opening tutorial introduces basic movement and how you can jump higher by way of using items for a boost. It’s all a bit gravity defying, but it’s a handy double jump equivalent. Before you get into the first level proper you’ll happen upon an evil alter ego version of your character, perhaps a nightmare given the otherwise dreamlike feel. His MO is purely to obstruct your progress. He doesn’t have a mirror universe style goatee though. Missed opportunity there.

The Great Elevator aka the hub gave us a similar feeling to the Comet Observatory in the frankly amazing Super Mario Galaxy. Not least because you’re collecting cog fragments to progress to the next area rather than power stars or wonder seeds like in the most recent 2D Mario game.

The controls are all very responsive and well defined as you’d expect from a game of this sort. Heck, it’s a prerequisite and a big red flag when you’re playing a game where you’re battling the controls as well as the environment. Thankfully it’s not an issue here. As forgiving to new players as it is jaded old lags like this reviewer, there’s something immediate and fresh about Promenade.

Your first major upgrade is called the omnihook and as the name may suggest, it’s a hook that lets you traverse areas. It’s so useful in fact, that there’s a trophy for progressing a fair bit into Promenade without having unlocked it. Of course, we didn’t know the trophy existed until we had gone past the point of no return. Luckily you can have multiple saves on the go, so you can have another attempt. Though this is no mean feat as you realise how reliant you’ve become on the hook for speedy traversal across the levels once you’ve unlocked it. Though we’ve stalled on seventeen of the twenty-six segments required anyway.

We discovered a few secrets during our secondary playthrough that we’d missed entirely during our first playthrough, though we remain baffled by some of the objectives that remain outstanding. Each area has a checklist with a clue as to what fragments are in in each area. Sometimes they’re in plain sight, other times they are so well hidden you’ll be baffled as to how they’re found. Probably another gadget you’ve yet to unlock as is the case in many other Metroidvanias.

Promenade feels like a Switch game. We mean that in the best way. It feels like the sort of game that’d work well laid in bed under a warm duvet. It somehow feels ill suited to staring at a telly. It’s a play while doing something else sorta game. That’s no bad thing, it just doesn’t feel like a main event sort of game. Best suited to short sessions like the aforementioned Super Mario Bros Wonder in that regard. We actually wish for a unified cloud save like Thomas Was Alone or MLB The Show so we could carry on via PS4 or PS5. We’d not be worried if it had a shared trophy set either.

Levels are deceptively large with height as much as breadth used. The scope for traversal is well done, though in later levels you’re reliant on your omnihook to progress. To the extent on our alternate save, we’re unable to access the excellent space level or the second level beyond actually getting into the level itself. The first beach level is fun and all nautically themed and we bagged all the cog fragments under our own steam and via judicious use of stacked barrels. We’re at a loss as to where the remaining cogs will come from, but we’re hoping better minds than ours come up with a comprehensive guide to the collectibles.

As you progress through Promenade new traversal techniques will be made known to you, some of them you’ve had available since the outset of the game. These are often the key to finishing off every level’s objectives. Additionally, they are also a source for a couple of extra cog fragments each by way of an initial trial followed up by a time trial over the same course. These often have a tight time limit and effectively require you to carry out a perfect run. Easier said than done. The later trials are tough enough, heck, we’ve yet to get past the Trial of Vertiginous Heights in the seventh level.

It’s around this time that our impetus to play ebbed a little as our pickings became slimmer each time we played, the only fragments we garnered being by way of sniffing out secrets we’d uncovered in our alt save. We doubt we’ll be getting every single collectible here anytime soon, much less finishing the game inside 2h30’ for the associated trophy. It’s great that there’s recognition for speed runners, but we don’t see ourselves getting close to that. Our speedrunning days started and ended with our abortive sub-two hour attempt at Super Metroid over thirty years ago.

In conclusion, Promenade is a lovely thing. It brings to mind the classic 2D Mario games as well as the likes of Rayman Origins and Celeste, just without raspberries and us giving up before popping a single trophy. The controls are tight and the design is delightful. Our only real grumble is the challenge does rather ramp up not that long into the game. Some of the descriptions given are a genuine help in terms of finding cog fragments, but other times they’d just as well be in Polish for all our comprehension.

8 Overall
+ lovely responsive controls
+ brings to mind all manner of classic platformers
+ beautifully designed graphics
- perhaps a little too taxing at times
- some secrets are that bit too oblique
- that 2h30 speed run trophy
Promenade is a great platformer with loads to do. If you romp through the campaign without stopping to take it in, you’ll be doing it a disservice. A game to be savoured. Perhaps a bit too tough in latter stages to the extent we ran out of steam.

About Ian

Ian likes his games weird. He loves his Vita even if Sony don't anymore. He joined the PS4 party relatively late, but has been in since day one on PS5.

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