Sunday, June 14, 2009

Puke Along with Panic!

Imagine if every time you pressed a button on your cell phone, chose a channel with your TV remote, or clicked a mouse, there was a 50 to 90 percent chance that it would backfire, filling your living room with zoo animals, blowing up Mount Rushmore or even sending you on a one way trip to visit Satan himself, who will puke on you. This is the crazy concept behind Panic! (known as Switch in Japan), Data East’s best contribution to any Sega system, and quite possibly humanity’s greatest achievement.

The gameplay is simple: You’re transported from scene to scene, where you pick from a set of a buttons on screen, press one and watch the consequences. That's it. It’s pure brilliance.

The Monty Pythonish graphics are a perfect fit for the bizarre action and the music adds to the humorous atmosphere. The short, high-quality tunes establish a plethora of emotions, from relaxed and whimsical to pressured and tense. Honestly, some of the scenes are harrowing to play though, like the one with an imposing alien standing before you, or the one with a Frankenstein monster lying dormant (not for long!) in a gothic castle. And it’s not just the scary scenes that can make the player a little uncomfortable. One of the best things about the game is that even in a normal scene like a snowy field or a motorboat on a sunny day, you’ll still have the constant fear that you’re going to press the wrong button and sumos will jump out of the ceiling and puke on you. Or your lawnmower will spin wildly out of control and eat your baseball glove, your house and even your dog, and then puke on you.

But you're also afraid you might press the “right” button. Though Panic!’s fun comes from never knowing what you might trigger by pressing a button, you also don't know which switches have gags, so sometimes, you're teleported out of a scene without viewing all of the possible tomfoolery. That's right, you'll WANT to screw up in this game, because "winning" isn't half as fun as having a hippo in a tutu crush your poor character into a pancake, say something incoherent, and then puke on you.

In an industry increasingly obsessed with making video games so realistic that players can alter the texture of their shoelaces and are docked points for forgetting to trim their character’s nose hairs, a game where you simply point, click and pray is refreshing. Do yourself a favor and play Panic! - I promise it won’t make you want to puke.

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