Sony’s Playstation Store has served up some sumptuous gaming delicacies since its launch. Users have nibbled on treats such as Pixel Junk Eden, Flower, Flow and The Last Guy. Each one has showcased the Playstation brand’s unique take on downloadable games: innovation, originality and quality.
With Trash Panic Sony hopes to add to this platter. Does this latest serving belong on the main course with the others, or does its name indicate where this title should be placed?
The premise couldn’t be simpler, put the trash in the bin. Something everybody was told countless times as a child. Who needs to dispose of a toilet, oversized dumbbell, katana sword and stick of dynamite all at the same time though? As the trash falls from the top of the screen to the bottom, players need to order it in a way that the bin itself does not overflow; so far, so Tetris. Yet the game does much to differentiate itself from others in the puzzle genre.
Using the Dualshock controller, players manipulate the falling debris to fit neatly into the bin. There is also the option to slam items down at speed by pressing triangle, making some items shatter and others crush those below. Everything in the game has a specific weight and fragility. Just like in real life, if you slam a PC monitor down on a pencil, the pencil will shatter. Try slamming a rubber ball onto it though and the ball will bounce clear out of the bin doing your score no good at all.
Five levels are available for players in the game’s single player mode, with three difficulty settings. Each level can be played straight off the title screen once unlocked. The only problem is that Trash Panic forces players to start from the first level if you switched off your machine before clearing all five.
Only have the last level to beat? Too bad, you have to go through the previous four again, in one sitting. In an age where we tailor our experiences to the individual, allowing our own time management while gaming, this can be taken in two ways: as a throwback to the old-school days where we had to earn our rewards; or an oversight on the developer’s side.
One thing undeniably old-school about this title is the “trial and error” like progression that you will make. Discovering how items interact with each other and the most efficient way to dispose of your rubbish is not shown in a friendly, hand holding tutorial. Learning the nuances of how the elements of fire and water interact with each object is only achieved with perseverance and invention on the player’s part.
Fire will burn wood and most debris to create more space. The fire can also be coaxed along from one end of your bin to the other. Dropping rolls of highly flammable toilet paper strategically will help the spread of the fire. However, the length of time that items remain on fire seems to be rather random. On occasions a whole screen can be filled with flames, other times it will disappointingly fizzle out, with nothing at all different having been done by the player on either occasion.
Water initially seems like the enemy of your pyromaniac cleaning spree. However it can be used as an asset and not just to extinguish a fire. Using the pink orbs that occasionally drop, players can cause a reaction with the water, resulting in items near the orb to disappear. Doing this on bigger items that cannot be smashed or torched easily is essential. Frustratingly, this process also appears to be governed by the haphazardness that will occasionally hinder your use of fire.
The unpredictability does not stop at the elements. On more than one occasion I was left cursing out Trash Panic‘s sometimes infuriating physics. Heavy items will sometimes bounce like the before mentioned rubber ball, ruining a carefully structured plan and often resulting in a failed level.
Destroying items at the bottom of the bin will often leave items above stuck in mid-air, as if the item below is still there. Shaking the Dualshock is meant to rattle the bin, which should resolve the problem, but this doesn’t always work as planned. Valuable space is then lost and as space is at an absolute premium, frustration sets in.
Frustration is what stops Trash Panic from being great. Upon the first few plays, it appears to be one of the best puzzle games of this generation, full of originality and the quirkiness that is seemingly reserved solely for Japanese developed games.
There are some great features: the ranking system that gives you a carbon footprint based on how tidily you disposed of your trash at the end of levels; the mission scenarios that can only be completed by meeting specific goals; and the wonderful J-Pop music that is infectiously cheery. These all add to its charm, giving some genuinely pleasing moments.
For fans of the puzzle genre in need of a new experience, Trash Panic is definitely worth its purchase price. For those not as forgiving or patient, it is best to leave this one off the menu.
Everything has a very definite and eye pleasing art style that is bright and refreshing.
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Grasps at greatness, but erratic bugs cause it to be too come up short.
Only one song on the playlist but it will keep you whistling long after turning off the system. Or will add to your frustration, depending on your tastes.
Five main levels can be cleared relatively quickly, Mission Mode will test the patience of a Saint. A tacked on multiplayer fails to add any variety.
If you can look past the sometimes game-killing bugs, there is a good puzzler here. For the rest it is sadly not worth the effort.