Polar Panic
Developer: Eiconic
Publisher: Valcon Games/PSN Network
Release Date: Out Now
Players: Up to 4 Split Screen
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PS3 puzzle fans are particularly well catered for by the PlayStation Network. In fact at current count there are over 30 titles available to download. With such an abundance of choice, any new addition to the field needs to have a unique approach or super-slick control system to stand a chance of success.

Sitting down with Polar Panic, itís difficult to see where Eiconicís title will find a niche. The set-up is simple. You play as a polar bear with the task of reaching the exit of each snow-covered level while avoiding the evil trappers.
The game has an isometric view and blocks of snow and ice are scattered across a checkered board. You are required to either destroy or slide the blocks around the grid to gain access to the exit. The trappers should either be avoided completely (as touching them results in instant death) or you can use sliding blocks to crush them. Ravines need to be traversed, bombs exploded and barriers removed to progress.

There are three levels of play on offer. Puzzle mode asks you to reach the exit in each level in the fewest possible moves and in the quickest time. There are 50 puzzles in total, each gaining in size and complexity.

Story mode follows a loose narrative about Mr Big who is intent on clearing out the polar wildlife before draining the area of its precious resource. Puzzles in this mode are operated on larger grids where the objective is to destroy all the trappers before the exit reveals itself, again there are 50 scenarios to solve. Each puzzle is timed to add to the tension and bonus points are awarded for speed and combinations. Completing levels rewards you with concept art that can be viewed later through the main menu.

Survival mode can be played with up to four players on the same console and requires you to clear waves of trappers. This mode plays much more like a updated version of Pac Man as you wander around the grid trying to stay out of trouble and lure the trappers in front of the moving blocks. Itís a fun game with a group and exactly the sort of mode you would expect to find in a party game pack.

Graphically the game is something of a mixed bag. The environments in the stages resemble the generic snow levels of the 16-bit era and the animations of the characters on show are not much more advanced. The lighting effects are more impressive, especially the glow of fires against the snow. Likewise the menus and incidental screens feature some nice cel-shaded images.

Controlling the polar bear never feels entirely satisfactory. Movement is skittish and the viewing angle often makes it difficult to judge your position against the blocks on the grid. Collision detection is generally poor and can make avoiding the touch of the trappers more luck than judgement. This is especially frustrating when playing against the clock or when the latter levels increase the numbers of enemies.

Polar Panic is probably best played in short bursts so that the frustration of the control system wonít overwhelm the player. It seems much more suited to handheld gaming in this respect. Like most puzzlers, there is a desire to push on through all 50 levels in the story and puzzle modes, but trying to obtain the highest grades and fastest times may be too big a test of patience for most.

In summary, itís a perfectly adequate puzzler thatófor the non-bank breaking price of £6.29 in the UKówill no doubt provide a smattering of fun for fans of the genre. It doesnít set out to offer anything innovative or new, in fact itís rough and ready presentation and basic gameplay harks back to an earlier gaming era.

Best Bits

- Some intricate puzzles
- Survival mode is fun with friends
Worst Bits

- Adds nothing new to the puzzle genre
- Dodgy controls and collision detection create added frustration
- Not exactly a looker

by: Blakey

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