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Review: Penny Larceny: Gig Economy Supervillain

Posted on August 24, 2023 by Victor Tan

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Penny Larceny is an engaging visual novel that isn’t afraid to tackle tough issues. Each path has a unique story that covers the good and bad sides of villany. It takes a long time to go through all the stories, but the payoff is worth it in the end.

Developer – Fiction Factory Games

Publisher – Fiction Factory Games

Platforms – PC (reviewed)

Review copy given by publisher

When you think of supervillains, you often imagine nefarious individuals who enjoy a life of crime. But when you step into Penny Larceny’s shoes, it’s hard to imagine supervillains as terrible people. Thanks to the narrative and exposition, you can actually relate to the characters and their struggles. Not every good person wears capes, and not every villain needs masks to be evil.

The titular character begins as an aspiring supervillain who is just trying to make ends meet. Their latest caper allows her to hack into the latest supervillain matching app. It’s a great way to build her relationships or pursue her own goals. Penny isn’t bound to anyone and it’s possible to stick with a supervilllain or choose the path of solo work.

The story has several paths and narratives depending on the supervillains you network with. Choosing to stick with a supervillain all the way lets you learn more about them and their struggles. Deciding to do what’s best for Penny helps develop their professional. Perhaps you decide to have the best of both worlds and work with a few supervillains.

There’s no single “best” path even if you have a few that you prefer. It’s also worth playing through all of the paths even if you aren’t interested in the true ending. Going through each path fleshes out the characters and lets you learn more about them.

One of the game’s greatest strengths is its refusal to pull its punches. It’s a raw look at people who are struggling with various issues. Penny isn’t some evil supervillain who’s bent on world domination. She’s a girl who’s been dealt a bad hand and is trying to make the most of it. The characters you meet are also equally complex which makes them relatable. It’s hard not to empathize with them and make decisions you believe in.

Even the humorous moments are relatable, with the actions and words conveyed through the visual novel format. You aren’t left wanting to see the hijinks and it’s funny to hear Penny be self-aware. Your interactions with Penny also break the fourth wall in some ways, making you feel like you are there. It helps immerse you in the story and invest yourself in Penny’s development.

As a crime visual novel, Penny will participate in various heists. They appear deceptively simple but end up being complicated. The crime’s success will depend on the answers and actions you choose, some of which aren’t obvious. It’s fun to try new options and see whether a crime goes better than expected. While Penny’s success is mandatory for the story to continue, it does give you some control over the criminal operation.

The mandatory success does lower the tension because you aren’t at risk of failing. It helps prevent you from feeling that you can make things worse. You are also rewarded for making the optimal choice which isn’t hard to find. But it does mean the stakes aren’t high and everything will get better for Penny Larceny. That takes some of the stakes away and makes the story somewhat predictable.

There are multiple story paths based on who you interact with. Each path has its own ending, but you must play through all of them to get the true ending. Viewing all the paths can take a while, and it’s best to space out your playthroughs to avoid getting fatigued. But it’s worth finding out how everything ties together even if it takes a while.

The animation makes you feel like you are reading a comic book. Everything takes place in still frames but it helps you picture the action in your head. It also helps for the more poignant scenes where sensitive matter is being covered. The emotion is properly conveyed and it lets the words sit in your mind.

While it would be nice to see some animation, the characters’ expressions and words provide enough information. It works to the game’s advantage since you can imagine everything yourself. The game doesn’t shy away from more mature topics, but those are purely left to the imagination. But from the way characters talk, you can still feel the emotions and relationships between them.

Penny Larceny is a great visual novel about being a supervillain just trying to get by. There’s lots of replay value with the stories and branching paths, letting you view different perspectives. The animation and writing is also excellent, helping you gauge the characters’ emotions and relate to them. While the lack of failure lowers the stakes of each adventure, it’s still a great visual novel that makes you think.

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