Eiconic is ringing in the new year with their contribution to the already crowded market of downloadable games. Playing upon the wintry feel of Christmas, Polar Panic attempts to turn the puzzle-platformer into something less than simply frustrating.
The young development firm has attempted to broaden the appeal of their game by implementing several modern ideals, perhaps paid for by PETA, as well as adding more game modes than your average puzzler. That said, is a cute character and a few extra features enough to make Polar Panic stand out on the PSN?
In one word: no. But it doesn’t have to. Polar Panic knows what it is, and doesn’t try to be revolutionary. Unlike Braid or Flower, Eiconic’s game doesn’t attempt to push the envelope or fill your head with philosophical nonsense. Rather, the developers have put all their time and effort into creating a puzzle game that is solid on most fronts.
The visuals may be lacking, but anyone purchasing a puzzler simply for its looks seriously needs to re-evaluate their gaming priorities. The main focus of each level is completing the task – and believe me, after a few failed attempts you won’t be caring about the visuals anymore than those nasty trappers care about your well-being.
You play as Polar (original, no?), and it is your sole mission to escape each level by systematically destroying every poaching bastard on the ice and collect as many points as possible along the way. Story mode will be gamers’ first port of call, and the points don’t really matter as much as completing each level does. Time is your enemy, and if you dawdle too long by breaking every block of ice, you’ll soon realize that those trappers are pretty keen on honking down a nice big Polar burger.
The cutscenes aren’t revolutionary, and there is no voice work, (obviously to save on the Benjamins) but both are as irrelevant as the storyline itself. However, I sometimes wished that Eiconic tried a little less at story, and concentrated more on diversifying the levels.
Don’t get me wrong: Polar Panic is tough; but bigger levels, variation in elevation, and even some unique backdrops could have increased the pace of the game tenfold – especially when repetition begins to play a starring role towards the end of the game.
Story mode, for me, was basically the tutorial. A lengthy one, yes, but necessary if you are really keen on succeeding in Puzzle and Survivor modes. Each section has you complete five levels before you can progress, with some pretty nifty boss fights thrown in every now and then. I don’t consider myself a puzzle god by any stretch of the imagination, but when I initially jumped into Survivor mode, I was being torn apart repeatedly. After completing Story mode, it was an entirely different kettle of fish.
Online leaderboards are great for those keen on showing their friends how badass they are at cutesy puzzle games, but until this title gains a wider audience, you’ll most likely be seeing the same gamertag repeated over and over in the top 10 lists.
One of my favorite mobile phone games of all time is Bobby Carrot, and Polar Panic’s Puzzle mode plays out in a very similar fashion. You are scored on how quickly you complete the level, as well as how many blocks you need to push out of your way. The lack of longevity in Story mode is more than made up for here, and you’ll likely find yourself returning time and time again to beat your best scores.
Survival features have become the norm in games recently, and while Polar Panic doesn’t attempt to revolutionize the mode, it certainly does enough to give you a few hours worth of intense action. Perpetual hordes of trappers will be sent your way, and you have to survive for as long as possible. Simple to learn, almost impossible to master, but it will provide a much needed change from the standard time-based levels.
That said, when you start to get good at the game, you’ll likely find that those annoying glitches in the controls get rather worse as you progress. I lost count of the number of times I died trying to move behind an ice block, only for me to spin 90 degrees into the path of a gun-toting trapper. It’s a shame that such an important part of the game wasn’t given enough love.
On the surface, Polar Panic may look like a game only a fourth grade girl could enjoy. However, lying underneath is a wealth of content, with a diverse range of game modes sure to please even the most discerning puzzle fanatic.
It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly one of the better downloadable titles to come out recently.
The graphics simply aren’t up to scratch for a game of this era, downloadable or not.
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The shonky controls can take away from the fun of this game at times, but the sheer number of hours you can eat up by playing Story, Survivor, and Puzzle modes is staggering.
Contrary to most puzzle games, the orchestral soundtrack flows quite well, avoiding repetition as the easy way out.
Story mode is a fairly short trip, but Eiconic has implemented two extra features that often feel like standalone titles.
Featuring an incredible value for your hard earned money, Polar Panic is a fun puzzler that is best played in small doses.