Mixed or average reviews - based on 28 Critic Reviews

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 28
  2. Negative: 0 out of 28
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  1. The highs definitely outweigh the lows and this game breathes new life into an old genre.
  2. How you react to Penumbra depends entirely on how, uh, adventurous you are feeling when you load the game up. If you are a hardcore traditionalist, you could quickly get turned off by the game's 3D engine, sluggish controls, occasional combat and drab environments. However, if you are open to a new experience and are willing to take the game as it is, you could have a spooky and rewarding gaming experience that could even stretch your idea of what an adventure game can be.
  3. Pelit (Finland)
    A creepy and atmospheric horror adventure. The advanced physics engine makes the experience truly immersive. On the minus side, combat is a bit cumbersome and the plot could use some polishing. Still, very promising. [Aug 2007]
  4. 81
    Where Penumbra really wins through however is in its storytelling and puzzle solving.
  5. Penumbra: Overture will surely strike a chord with fans of adventure and horror games.
  6. Creeping around in the dark with only a flashlight to hand whilst the wind whistles through a passageway and footsteps can be heard around every corner can be extremely disconcerting, and it's a testament to good game design that it manages to unsettle right from the start.
  7. The only charge that can really be brought against the game lies within the the aesthetics of the environment.
  8. Penumbra: Overture focuses on delivering immersive gameplay by providing an engaging storyline, a surreal atmosphere, and a very creepy playing experience.
  9. AceGamez
    At a cost of only £15 for an online download, it's an absolute must for any PC adventure gamers out there.
  10. It's short enough to come across as an appetizer, this pilot episode's ending leaving you more confused than when entering the first tunnel of the mines
  11. PC Format
    It's not beautiful, it's not that long, but it's spooky and well worth a look. [Apr 2007, p.71]
  12. Penumbra is loaded with creepy psychological horror that really gets under your skin.
  13. Despite its action sequences, at heart this is a puzzle-based adventure game. Adventure-game designers often appear to be lagging about a decade behind the rest of the game industry, so it is refreshing to see developers willing to innovate within the genre.
  14. PC Gamer UK
    Penumbra is very likeable and accomplished. Clunky presentation holds it back, and wonky writing keeps you at a distance, but it shows potential. [May 2007, p.74]
  15. It’s like a movie that you can recognize as being a well-made effort, but doesn’t actually engage you all that much.
  16. Overture is very short at 5-6 hours. The benefit of that is that the middle stretch isn't terribly long by any means, so in a way, Overture benefits from its short runtime.
  17. PC Gamer
    It may not be Best in Show, but it's slavering in the top dogs' general direction. [Aug 2007, p.66]
  18. If you're interested in a serious relationship with gaming rather than purely out for a good time, please do take a look at Penumbra. It does some truly clever stuff, has an effectively creepy atmosphere and there's a few signposts in it that action and adventure games alike would do well to follow.
  19. The game shows a great deal of polish, considering the odds stacked against it.
  20. The emphasis on physics adds a unique dimension to Penumbra: Overture. If you're willing to sacrifice story for atmosphere, it's a decent catch for horror fans, but those looking for point-and-click fare may be turned off by unavoidable action elements.
  21. 70
    Let's just hope they fix the combat and add a bit more character development in the next episode.
  22. A creepy independent title that succeeds in its focus on refining established gameplay elements rather than defining its own.
  23. PC Zone UK
    Avoid combat and it remains an extremely smart adventure game with a lot to offer. [May 2007, p.82]
  24. games(TM)
    The good does outweigh the bad, because as a horror game it successfully horrifies. It’s also one of the darkest games we’ve played since the original "Silent Hill." [Apr 2007, p.106]
  25. Available for less than £10 online, the many great physics-based puzzles and unrelenting feeling of fear are well worth the asking price, but don't expect a game that will compete with multi-million pound projects.
  26. You can overlook the sloppy graphics, the poor narrative and the occasional rudimentary puzzle, because the design of Penumbra sometimes reminds you how inspired it is, offering the player some genuinely interesting puzzles in a properly spooky setting.
  27. Penumbra remains a mediocre adventure game with a small handful of interesting elements, and pee your pants moments.
  28. 50
    Penumbra: Overture hits all the old notes like the Stones on their tenth farewell tour.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 209 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 16 out of 209
  1. Jul 30, 2011
    This game was awesome. Truly one of the best horrors out there. Great story, great gameplay, and the ending leaves you wanting to play BlackThis game was awesome. Truly one of the best horrors out there. Great story, great gameplay, and the ending leaves you wanting to play Black Plague right away. Full Review »
  2. May 18, 2012
    Most survival-horror games try to increase the tension by having you play a character a bit less powerful than your average steroid-using,Most survival-horror games try to increase the tension by having you play a character a bit less powerful than your average steroid-using, armed-to-the-teeth action hero, but with Penumbra, Frictional have gone too far and forced you to play as someone apparently suffering from serious mental and physical disabilities. The protagonist is, for example, only ever capable of doing one thing at a time. Say you want to pick up a chair or similar debris to barricade a door. Doing so reduces your movement speed to a crawl, and makes you unable to jump. The same applies to virtually ever object bigger than about 15 cube inches. I'm pretty sure that in real life, I could lift a rock the size of an ostrich egg without having to drag it behind me at snail's pace. None of this is helped by the awkward interface or the broken physics engine. To interact with something, you click on it and move the mouse, so, for instance, to open a desk draw, you'd click on it and pull the mouse back to pull it open. It's pretty cool when it works, but it doesn't always, because obviously the game is 3D and the mouse plane isn't, so having the same control for 'move down' and 'move back' can be frustrating at times. As well as thinking everything it 4 times heavier than it should be, the physics engine clearly uses a lot of shortcuts: take the example near the start where the game tells you to barricade a door: regardless of whether you haphazardly left a single chair in front of it or spent a couple of minutes stacking up barrels, the door and everything in front of it just explodes after a certain amount of time. The whole thing leaves you wondering why the game bothered to tell you to barricade the door when just running away has largely the same result. This brings me to the other option: combat. Say you have a pickaxe. To use it like a weapon, you have to interact with it in the same way as any other item; i.e. click, then move the mouse forward to raise it, pull it back to bring it down. I'm trying not to stray into hyperbole here, but this is seriously retarded. I know the point of survival horror games is that you're not supposed to have an easy time in combat, but not being able to look around is beyond frustrating, especially when you're fighting zombie wolves (the first enemies of the game) which have a habit of jumping through you when they attack. Since you die in only three hits, if you miss then by the time you've turned around and readied for another swing of your weapon, you're already dead. Of course, you can usually avoid combat. What you can't avoid, however, are the asinine 'puzzles' the game throws at you. At one point, you need a 4-digit keycode to get to the next area. The code can be heard in morse code at a radio set. You'd think there might be a leaflet or a poster lying around somewhere in the game area explaining how to decipher morse code, but no. Frictional apparently expected players to just know morse code off the top of their heads. Since I didn't work on a boat in the 1920s, this just leads to an unsatisfying check of the nearest walkthrough. There's another part close to that where you need to get through a door which is barred with a plank of wood. The door is made from iron bars, so quite why exactly you can't just reach through the bars and lift the bar up, I don't know. Also, this is a point in the game where you have the aforementioned pickaxe, which you'd think could just smash this tiny plank. Nope. In fact, it's even immune to sticks of dynamite. So what you have to do is find the one rusty hacksaw in this enormous basement, which begs the question: why not just make so I had to find a key, rather than looking stupid with invincible planks of wood? Then, to get to the next part after that, you have to jump onto a ladder. Somehow, even this becomes a chore when this imbecile you're playing as won't grab on and is for some reason damaged by the 2-and-a-half foot drop when he misses. The next area is where I just gave up on the game: you're crawling around these cramped tunnels that are full of spider eggs, which can apparently sense when someone walks past 15 feet away and instantly hatch. Much like the wolves, they have a tendency to jump through you and kill you in three hits, but this time they're far too numerous, small and fast to try hitting them with a weapon, so you have to shine your torch on them. The problem is, they're a bit slow off the mark, so if one of them is too close when you do that, it'll jump through you, and then there is nothing you can do to avoid dying. You're supposed to block off sections of the tunnel using conveniently shaped rocks, but trying to move boulders around slows you down even more than usual when you're crouched in a tunnel, so you more often than not end up being eaten while dragging them around. Eventually I just gave up in exasperation at this dissappointing, broken game. Full Review »
  3. Jan 28, 2014
    For its time this game may have been of quality...I can't say. I'm playing it in 2013/2014 and finding it lacking. The dogs (the primaryFor its time this game may have been of quality...I can't say. I'm playing it in 2013/2014 and finding it lacking. The dogs (the primary antagonists) don't provide the appropriate tension. They're boring and kill them or they kill you and you try again (or you just run past them). They're a horror mechanic gone wrong. The rest of the game is clunky, big on "mystery" but small on "experience" or even "wonder".

    All in all...I played 3/4 to 7/8 of this game and didn't want to bother finishing. I used walkthroughs to get to the end, and it wasn't satisfying at all (would have been more frustrating without walkthroughs).

    I do plan to play the later editions in the series though. It was compelling and interesting if outdated and flawed. I'll have to see (and probably review) how the next iterations go.
    Full Review »