It's been quite a while since we published a game review, and this one was my first assignment from Harv. Fear not, gamers, you're not being ignored. We have plenty of new game reviews in the works and we'll also take a look back at some freshened classics too. Many developers have revved their games originally written for older non-connected Palms to run properly on Treos.
PenguinPanic (at the TC Store) from DeluxeWare, moderately priced at $14.99. There is a free trial available for download, which is playable for 10 days with a two minute time limit.
Though it would be several days before I would get a chance to read anything about it or play the game, burning questions lingered: what manner of game was I about to play? What would PengiunPanic have to do with Penguins and / or Panic? What did these innocent birds do to deserve this kind of treatment? Was Morgan Freeman involved?
The hapless penguins are trapped in ice, and they are released when lines are cleared. What Lovecraftian horror could have put them there, the game does not address. Lines are cleared in a manner similar to Tetris. Release them and they jump, vestigial wings flapping, to their doom at the bottom edge of the screen, never to be seen again... no heavy flightless bird could survive that fall. Perhaps this is the panic of which they speak.
Disable the Music
In 50 levels of game play, there are approximately 45 seconds of 50s style good-time-rock-and-roll that loops over and over and over. It is the only music in the game. I advise you to disable it; listening to it will drive you mad. Turn the music off for your sanity; it is too late for me, the abyss has already gazed back.
The game's other sounds are less irritating. When you place blocks, they make a satisfying chunky icy metallic sound, and clearing lines makes a nice shimmering sound. The release of Penguins causes them to squawk. Some high quality Morgan Freeman narration would have been nice, however.
Mechanics of the Game
One places blocks around on a square playing field which is similar to Tetris. The game departs from Tetris in that lines of blocks can clear vertically or horizontally. There's a holding area where one can store up to 5 pieces, and place them in open spaces on the board.
Some pieces have bombs embedded on them. The bombs detonate when a line is cleared. Other pieces give you points for clearing the special block. The most special piece that I have encountered is one that, when cleared as a part of a normal line, clears a line perpendicular to it in both directions.
If you want to do puzzles without the timer, relax mode is advised. I started with this mode to learn the game mechanics, and took it to level 50. It's a good thing that the game remembers your spot if you leave it to use different apps, because you can play relax mode on easy for a loooooong time.
The presence of penguins to rescue in the story mode was nice, though it passes too quickly. Different locations have different backgrounds, though the game board is heavily frosted and I didn't notice for a few levels. It's a bit jarring in terms of penguins frozen in ice in cities like Los Angeles, Manila, and Sydney, but suspension of disbelief shouldn't be far off in a game where you accept that penguins are trapped in ice and only more ice of different colors can free them. Should you want to play cities from story mode again, Panic mode allows you to choose cities you have bested in story mode.
In classic mode, there are 100 levels. Your goal is to place blocks on the board before the timer runs out; if that happens, another block pops up in the bottom of the screen. If there's no empty slot to put the block, the game is over.
Once you win, you have the option of placing your high score on Deluxeware's website by entering a special code that is presented after you win or lose. You do not receive a code if you abandon the game.
For the size of the game, I expected more. The game is also locked, which means that it can't be run from an SD card. There are a few language glitches, but nothing serious. PenguinPanic is a good game -- it's just not great. The story mode is fun but short, and it seems like it was added on so penguins would be involved somehow. As a puzzle game, its competition is games like Lumines (PSP), Snood (Pocket PC), Bejeweled (Palm OS), and PenguinPanic's progenitor Tetris, and it falls short of all of them. On the other hand, if you are or were a Tetris fiend, this game could very well suck you in and not let you go, just like the original. Once you're the savior of all penguins, you'll know what I'm talking about.
fun enough to play 50 levels
the game play is pretty good
multiple difficulty levels
hardcore Tetris fans will like it
no Morgan Freeman
1.1 MB install
Palm OS only
draconian trial version