- Joystick: Use the joystick to maneuver Pengo up, down, forward, and backward. Pengo can safely move anywhere on the screen, including along the walls which surround the maze.
- Push/Crush: The push/crush button will push an ice block through an open space if it is pressed when Pengo is being maneuvered by the joystick against that ice block. However, if there is no open space in front of the ice block, then the ice block will be crushed. The diamond blocks are moved in a similar manner. However, if there is no space in front of a diamond block, then the block will neither be moved or crushed. The push/crush button will also activate the freeze mode on the walls.
- 1-2 Players: Push either button to begin a one or two player game.
This red penguin waddle around the screen under your control. He can move up, down, left, or right, and is controlled by a four-way joystick. He also has the ability to push ice blocks into his adversaries; this feature is activated by the "push" button. Pengo's goal is simply to rid the screen of sno-bees by crushing them with ice blocks. To do this, you must maneuver Pengo into a position where a single ice block stands between him and a sno-bee, and then push the ice block into the sno-bee. The ice block will slide across the screen, pushing the sno-bee ahead of it, until colliding with another ice block or the wall.
The sno-bees are Pengo's one and only enemy. They are small, furry creatures armed with a hammer and an ice pick. Their goal is not only to crush ice blocks, but also Pengo. In the first four rounds sno-bees appear up to three at a time, and in the later rounds there are four constantly active sno-bees. There are four ways to kill the sno-bees, each of this are explained below.
Sno-Bee Eggs: In every maze configuration there are sno-bee eggs randomly scattered in various places among the ice blocks. At the beginning of each round the sno-bee eggs show themselves by illuminating the ice blocks in which they are hiding. There are eight sno-bee eggs in the first two rounds, ten eggs in rounds three and four, and 12 eggs in each round thereafter. Every time one of the active sno-bees is killed, one of the eggs hatches and makes a new sno-bee. While it is impossible to exactly determine which one of the sno-bee eggs will hatch next, it usually is the egg nearest to Pengo.
The Blobs: The deadly sno-bees are also cowards, and sometimes, if only one of them is left near the end of a round, a buzzer will sound; this buzzer signals the sno-bee's metamorphosis into a blob. A blob is about 1½ times the size of a sno-bee, twice the speed, and will head directly for one of the four walls, destroying everything in its path. When a blob reaches the wall it will head for one of the four corners of the maze, unless there is a diamon block along the wall. If a diamond block is present, it will head for that. In either case, when a blob reaches its destination it disappears, thus completing the round.
The ice blocks are what the maze is mainly made up of. There are approximately 110 in every maze configuration. The maze configurations are, however, fairly random, with about thirty different possibilities of maze configuration for each game.
In every maze there are three diamond blocks randomly scattered among the ice blocks. There diamon blocks are entirely indestructible. But if you can line them up—all three blocks in a row, with their sides touching—you can earn 10,000 points for lining them up the middle, and 5,000 points if they are along one of the walls.
On the outside of each maze there are four impenetrable walls that are very useful to Pengo. If you direct Pengo to the wall and push the button while you are facing it, Pengo will "shake" that outside wall. Any Sno-bee that is standing next to this wall will become stunned for a limited time. Pengo can walk over the Sno-bee while it remains stunned in order to kill it.
After each round is completed the bonus timer appears and shows the number of seconds Pengo took to clear the preceding round. Then a bonus is awarded, depending upon how much time Pengo took. From 0 to 60 seconds, a decreasing amount of bonus points are awarded, described in the scoring section below. From 60 seconds on up there is a trade-off—no bonus is awarded, but there is no penalty inflicted for the amount of time consumed.
After the bonus is awarded for any even-numbered round, there is a brief intermission. The intermissions feature eight penguins performing various routines. In the first intermission the Pengos do a small marching routine. In the second intermission they "shake their booty". In the third intermission each penguin stops and salutes you. In the fourth, the penguins turn to face you and then impersonate Space Invaders by doing jumping jacks as they exit the screen. In the fifth intermission the source of the game's background music is revealed—it's Pengo himself playing a mean piano. And in the sixth intermission, Pengo appears from behind the piano to play "peek-a-boo" with you. Unlike many other video games available when Pengo was introduced (with a limited number of intermissions), as long as the game goes on, more and more intermissions are shown. They are shown in the following order: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, and so on.
|Vibrating a wall||30 points|
|Smashing an ice block||30 points|
|Smashing an Sno-bee egg||500 points|
|Walking over a stunned Sno-bee||100 points|
|Killing a Sno-bee with an ice block||400 points|
|Killing 2 Sno-bees at once with an ice block||1,600 points|
|Killing 3 Sno-bees at once with an ice block||3,200 points|
|Killing 4 Sno-bees at once with an ice block||6,400 points|
|Line up the 3 diamond blocks in the middle||10,000 points|
|Line up the 3 diamond blocks against a wall||5,000 points|
|Completing screen in 1-20 seconds||5,000 bonus points|
|Completing screen in 20-29 seconds||2,000 bonus points|
|Completing screen in 30-39 seconds||1,000 bonus points|
|Completing screen in 40-49 seconds||500 bonus points|
|Completing screen in 50-59 seconds||10 bonus points|