The PlayStation Mobile platform seems to be well supported at the moment for anyone who loves puzzle games. Whether it’s fast action, futuristic, a casual match-3 game, or a variant on an arcade classic, it seems to be available at a bargain price so it’s no real surprise to see yet another puzzler available. Not that this is a bad thing, by any means when you consider that some of the all-time greats were puzzle games – who is going to argue with the quality of a game like Tetris, for example – but occasionally it would be nice for a bit more variety.
Not wanting to be deterred, I pressed on and loaded up Panic! another release from prolific indie developer Ripstone. Taking its inspiration from the monster b-movies of the 50s, Panic! is a top-down puzzle game that puts you in charge of rescuing people who are in various towns and cities that are under attack from giant monsters. These monsters, made from what can be best described as green ooze, are moving through the towns and you have to stop them from progressing as best as possible allowing everyone to escape safely.
Bearing in mind that the average person is about six feet tall and a typical town destroying behemoth of a monster is several hundred feet tall, that isn’t going to be as easy as you might think. It’s not as if you can just stick a few sandbags in the way or poke it with a very sharp pointy stick and ask it nicely to leave. That just isn’t going to happen. Your only option is to destroy the city… well some of it at least. What you have to do is destroy some of the buildings by swiping them with your fingers on the touch screen in the direction you want them to fall. This will cause them to block roads and create obstacles blocking the path of the monster and forcing it to change direction and hopefully out of harm’s way. If you’ve accidentally blocked a survivor, don’t worry as the rubble can be removed with a simple tap of the screen.
Later levels add more survivors, objectives to protect specific buildings and adding extra abilities to the survivors allowing them to run under your control (although you would think that they would do this naturally!) so in some levels not only do you need to manage the city structure but the population as well! Other levels add even more into the mix with weapons you can strike back with and a few other tricks but I’ll let you discover those for yourself.
There are two main game modes on offer. The main Campaign mode takes you through a series of progressively more difficult missions through the three different types of areas of offer – Town, City and Metropolis (san Superman!) with a gentle learning curve easing you into the game in the early stages. The other is Survival and it’s fairly self explanatory – just help the population survive as long as possible.
I’m showing my age now, but this really reminded me of the old Steve McQueen film The Blob from 1958 (later remade in 1988 with Kevin Dillon). I used to love watching that film growing up whenever it was shown on television despite it being made long before I was born (honest!) and playing this brought all those memories flooding back (I even had the film’s theme song running through my head as I played) which was no bad thing at all. Anyone with a love of old monster movies will immediately warm to this as I did and the visuals and over-the-top humour really keep the atmosphere planted firmly in cheek while you play.
It’s great fun and the Campaign mode allows you to dip in and out easily enough so you can either play a single level if you only have time for a short gaming session or as many as you like so it’s ideal for longer play as well. But, there is a problem… there were times when I felt that the control system let it down somewhat. Being completely reliant on the touch screen meant that the precision wasn’t always there. There were occasions when I was trying to destroy building to block off the blob’s route and instead ended up pushing it over in the wrong direction or even worse crushing one of the people I was trying to save! What would have been better would have been additional controls allowing you to zoom in to give you more precise control over demolishing buildings or even better, the option to use the joystick / d-pad.
Overall, this is still a great puzzle game and an absolute bargain at the price and worth getting if you’re a puzzle fanatic and looking for a new challenge, but it’s not quite perfect. With a refined control system, this could well be a must-own game on the PlayStation Mobile platform.
At A Glance
- Title: Panic!
- Publisher: Ripstone
- System: PlayStation Mobile
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 103Mb