United Penguin Kingdom

Developed by Turquoise Revival Games
Published by GrabTheGames and UpgradePoint
Available on Steam

City building sims are one of those games that often have a hardcore following. The time required to ensure your village or city grows in the way that you’d like, minimising loss (whether that’s physical loss, financial loss or loss of assets) whilst balancing growth and happiness of inhabitants is no mean feat. Games like Farthest Frontier, a city building game I reviewed last year about growing a settlement, can be quite difficult to master but if you like this sort of game, then I may have the solution: United Penguin Kingdom.

In this eco-friendly, strategy settlement-building sim game, it’s your job to create a little town on a floating slab of ice for the penguin community to live on and prosper. That means building igloo habitats, leisure and education facilities to nurture your penguin friends, not to mention trawling docks to capture fish and other sea creatures to consume. However, it’s not as simple as plonking the buildings wherever you like. With the ice caps continuously at risk of melting away and leaving the penguins without a habitat, wind turbines must be erected to keep the ice-caps cool and to generate electricity. Similar to park simulation Jurassic World Evolution, buildings must be within the radius of a turbine in order to ‘work’, much like JWE’s electricity pylons, and so you always have to be mindful of where you place your properties.

Adult penguins are there to work and thus right off the bat you can create little camps for them to wait, ready to build your new property. One of the first buildings you create will be a food store, which is also one of the main targets for your penguin community’s sworn enemies: seals. Throughout the game, you’ll contend with thieving seals sliding across the ice to nick a gobful of grub from your food store. To prevent this, you can build spear towers where penguin defenders will oversee and protect the radius of the tower by throwing ice-spears. This also comes in useful when killer whales attack your docks. These relentless creatures will end up trashing your dock if you don’t protect it properly, which will leave you having to stump up the costs to rebuild it. By strategically placing defensive towers near the docks, and placing storage facilities nearby too, your penguin defenders will be able to protect your community from both whales and seals who frequent your ice-caps.

United Penguin Kingdom Whale Attack
An attacking whale getting blasted by an ice cannon in United Penguin Kingdom

Young penguins who are born on the ice caps need somewhere to live and have separate accommodation to the adults until they come of age. Until then, they must go to school during the day to be educated on… errr… penguin matters. When they’re old enough, they can be put to work like every other penguin earning their place in your growing community. But it’s not all work on the ice island. Keep your penguins entertained with an ice rink or carousel (with seals instead of horses). Yes, it’s a daft and funny concept, but that’s what makes the game so endearing. As a lighter foray into city-building simulation games, it’s much easier to play and less stressful, leaving you to create a comfortable community for your penguins whilst keeping a keen eye on the calendar for any upcoming threats.

As penguin researchers generate Science development points that can be used to unlock new buildings and property upgrades, you’re always looking to improve the community. Keep the reputation high and you’ll be rewarded financially by the king, whilst quests issued throughout the game offer temporary reputation perks for successful completion. As your settlement grows, you can upgrade your Village to a City, unlocking more building types, with the goal to becoming a Province. However, being granted city status isn’t a given. If you fail to keep up the requirements to be a City, you can easily be downgraded the following year, so it’s important to continue and maintain the growth. If you’re downgraded, you’re limited in what buildings you can unlock i.e. if you were downgraded to a Village after being a City, you can only unlock the buildings in Village branch using your Scientific development points.

There’s a lot to like about United Penguin Kingdom. It’s cute, warm and fuzzy (and funny!) thanks to the penguin theme, with the game a more relaxed version of the city-building sims out there. A simpler take on a much-loved genre of gaming means it’s more accessible for people who want to dip in and out of the game, and for those who may find other city strategy sims too difficult or overwhelming. United Penguin Kingdom is challenging enough to keep things interesting but is perfect for those who may get frustrated with the more demanding sims. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to see penguins attend a fight club?

There are some aspects that seem a little undeveloped in the game, such as gaining 100% education but having no perks as a result from that within job roles – only overall status of the community. It seems that any of your penguins are suitable for any job role. I would have liked to have seen more specialist education options required for certain roles, or at least benefits if your penguins have a better education, a bit like what Theme Hospital and Two Point Hospital developed with their staff skills and training for specialist jobs like Psychiatry. With no real specifics on the development side of things, the game does feel like it’s missing a trick somewhat and can feel a bit repetitive as you build more and more of the same properties in different locations on the map. If the character development strand could be improved to craft penguins for specific careers, I think this would help enormously.

Steam offers 63 achievements and Steam trading cards for playing United Penguin Kingdom, and with a game size of less than 1 GB it’s easy on your computer’s storage space too. The game is only compatible with Windows systems, from Windows 7 onwards.

If you’re looking for a more serene city-building strategy sim to play, then United Penguin Kingdom is well worth checking out.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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About Bat 4417 Articles
I love practical effects, stop-motion animation and gore, but most of all I love a good story! I adore B-movies and exploitation films in many of their guises and also have a soft spot for creature features. I review a wide range of media including movies, TV series, books and videogames. I'm a massive fan of author Hunter S. Thompson and I enjoy various genre of videogames with Kingdom Hearts and Harvest Moon two of my all time favs. Currently playing: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Yakuza Zero and Mafia III.

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