The PlayStation Vita is known to be a handheld that can handle pretty much any console game thanks to its dual analog sticks and numerous buttons which make it close to a portable DualShock controller with a built-in screen. Also, thanks to its touchscreen it can handle games which rely on touch controls only, which have exploded due to the success of games on iOS and Android. PlayStation Mobile is a service which allows these games to be played on the Vita as well as certified Android smartphones and tablets. One of these games is Panic!
Panic! was developed by Belgian developer Thumbs Up Games and is their first PS Mobile exclusive. Panic!’s premise centres around an alien invasion and you have to save the planet by stopping the slime the aliens produce from hitting and killing all the civilians. To do this you have destroy buildings to protect the people from the slime; not the most orthodox method but it kind of works. To destroy a building you tap on it and to use it to block any given direction you swipe in the direction you want to debris to go. There is only four directions you can swipe since the levels use a square grid based system which is very fixed and doesn’t over complicate things. The problem I found with this was that the game is really sensitive to touching of the screen and at times when I was trying to swipe a building it would just collapse in that spot and not where I wanted. It is really frustrating and caused many level retries.
There are 30 levels in the game in total which are split into three areas and each have ten levels. The goal of each level is to navigate the slime through the level without it catching the people or a marked person or vehicle marked with a red circle over it. If the slime catches up to the target then it’s mission failed. Each level has a scoring system which is the same as a game you might have heard of called Angry Birds.
Like Angry Birds, the idea is to be as efficient as possible to achieve the highest scores. This is done by keeping everyone from the slime and destroying as little as possible. This can be done easily if you memorise the level layout as the levels are fixed and the slime goes the same way, as do the things you have to protect, if they can move that is. If you are successful in doing this then you will receive a three-star rating. What does this do? Nothing. There’s no leaderboard system in Panic! This is because PS Mobile games don’t support them yet, although one game, Fuel Tiracas, does have them but they’re not linked to the PlayStation Network like they should be. This reveals the lack of depth the game has in truth but that can be said for pretty much any mobile game like this. Along with the thirty levels there is a Survival mode which has you going non-stop for as long as you can. While this does add some replay value to the proceedings, it would be great if leaderboards were supported as they would add a competitive edge to the game which I feel is much needed.
The game looks pretty decent. It has bright colours and a distinctive art style which looks great on the Vita’s OLED screen. The menus require touch input but it’s not an issue since buttons would slow things down. The game only seems to have one song which constantly plays on a loop, and while it’s not a bad tune it can get annoying after a while.
All in all, Panic! is a decent puzzle game which is perfectly tailored to the pick-up-and-play mentality. It’s a good start for this type of title on PS Mobile and when the service matures and allows more features like leaderboards and PSN Trophies then games like this will be much more enticing. Panic! isn’t perfect, but for its low price you’re sure to get your money’s worth, even if it frustrates you because of the overly-sensitive touch inputs.