Promenade Review

I feel like you know when you’re onto a winner with a new game when you can’t help but compare it – favourably – to the modern Super Mario titles. Super Mario Odyssey in particular seems to be of heavy inspiration for Promenade, taking the ideas of experimentation, exploration, and a feeling of openness, and making it its own.

That may be a lofty way to kick things off but I have been seriously impressed with Promenade these last few weeks. It’s been an utter joy to play, offering a good amount of challenge without stumping me and yet, there’s always one more thing to find or see in an area that I can’t help trying before moving on.

But let’s back up a bit. Promenade is a 2D puzzle platformer from developers Holy Cap . We play as young Nemo and their Poulp – a cute, octopus-type creature that forms the backbone of our interaction with the world. A malevolent force has destroyed the cogs that power the Great Elevator, and it’s up to us to solve puzzles and traverse varied areas in order to find them. It’s a charming, if not wholly unique, set-up presented through visual elements only, with no text boxes or spoken dialogue to be found.

In fact, this ‘show don’t tell’ approach is the tenet on which the entire game works. There’s some light tutorialisation in blatantly placed items or occasionally some signage to hint at a new power to use, but for the most part we’re left to our own devices to figure out the who/what/why/where/how.

One of the earlier examples within the hub world of the Great Elevator is a set of three basketball hoops. After throwing the nearby ball through, we begin to experiment with our Poulp which allows us to grab hold of an enemy which we can then use in various ways, such as giving us a one-time double jump or as an offensive weapon – or even as a basketball. Sure enough, throwing them through the hoops sees it grant us a tick, and dunking on all three then grants us part of a cog wheel. This is a simple example but it’s not long before we’re plonked into one of the several subworlds and it’s here the inventiveness really begins to shine.

At first we’re again given no instruction, but there may be something that catches our eye – another set of basketball hoops; a cog just out of reach on top of a house; a snail being blocked from moving by cannon fire; several hooks and enemies laid out in just the right formation to let us traverse up high, and so on. Promenade then encourages us to just give something a go, and chances are it’ll either gives us a cog part, or lead us down a rabbit hole of smaller puzzles that then lead onto a new area that then offer up a new challenge… hopefully you get the idea.

The individual levels aren’t overly large – at least, not at first – but they are packed with things to see and do. Some will be out of bounds until we’ve progressed other parts or discovered upgrades later in the game, but there’s always something that we can do available.

Some levels even have their own sublevels that feed back into the main area, or tease future solutions that we will learn and then come back to. It’s all very clever stuff, and much like the aforementioned Mario Odyssey, strikes a fine balance between overwhelming us with things to do while keeping it as easy as possible to keep track of what we’ve learnt and where we can go.

Our Poulp not only grabs enemies but after an early game upgrade can grab onto hooks to open up even more areas. Later on more options become available but really the joy of Promenade is in discovering this and more for yourself. It’s the kind of game you can just as easily spend 20 minutes on as you can 2 hours, and no matter how long you’re there it’s never any less than a wonderful time.

As well as the general puzzles, there are boss fights, speed run challenges, call-backs to previous areas, and so much more to find here. Just as I thought I’d exhausted a section I’d invariably find a new path or area to explore, and throughout the level design and inventiveness is absolutely excellent. It can get a touch confusing later on if you’re bouncing around one section of the game, but there are pages that can be found within each section that will give us a hint as to how many challenges are left to do as well as a clue in the title as to what they may be.

It’s proving to be very hard for me to really come up with anything less than glowing to say about Promenade. The past few weeks I’ve been playing in among a few other titles and it has consistently been not only a joy to play, but something that has actively dragged me away from other, more pressing reviews. This year has already been one for some excellent games but Promenade has made it’s case for the top of the pile of shortlist come GOTY time for me.


Promenade is as charming and colourful as it is clever and challenging. It manages to keep the surprises coming throughout, offering more to the player than it has any real right to do.

This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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  • Consistently rewarding and surprising
  • Lovely presentation and audio work
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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