Reviewed: January 14, 2010
Released: December 23, 2009
Do you have fond memories of playing Bomberman back on the SNES or Sonic the Hedgehog for hours on end? If the answer is yes, then the title I’m reviewing today might be for you. Eiconic releases their new ice cold puzzle adventure, Polar Panic, just in time for the snow to really start flying around us this year. But don’t let the frozen exterior fool you, Polar Panic is a one awesomely hot puzzle adventure.
Polar Panic is a block-based puzzle title that at first glance heavily reminded me of Bomberman. There are bad guys roaming each level and yes there are pickups but beyond those basic similarities, Polar Panic is a whole different experience. You play as a polar bear, whose home is being destroyed by an “evil” corporation headed by one Mr. Big. The main objective is to make it the very end and put an end to Mr. Big’s plans. But to get there, you’ll have to get through a bunch of trappers, bent on stopping you.
Controls are uber-easy requiring nothing more than using the left analog stick to make your character move and the “A” button to slide ice blocks around the levels. The levels are viewed from a top down 3D perspective and can range from smaller grids to larger more complex areas. As I mentioned above you will have trappers to deal with as a time limit. Players must eliminate all enemies from the level and their spawn points if there are any.
Polar Panic, aside from the roaming bad guys, features various pickups and items such as multipliers, freeze snowflakes, extra lives and the occasional furry friend. Most of the pickups are frozen inside ice blocks that you must shatter to get but are well worth it. Especially in the case of the freeze snowflake, which upon activation freezes all action on the screen allowing you to either take out the as many enemies as you can or go after the source of the enemies.
Along with having to deal with the various trappers and their toys, there is the side objective of freeing your polar bear companions from their cages. There are usually no more than two of your friends in any given level and it is not required to save them. It just gets you a better alphabetic score if you do. There really is only one way to take out your enemies and that is to slide ice blocks into them. If you’re lucky and your timing is right you can take out several of them at once. Occasionally and in one case you can use the environment to do in your opponent. There is nothing greater than watching them take each out if you trick them to.
There are 10 chapters to make your way through, 50 levels in all, that will take you a fair bit to get through. At the end of various chapters you take on Mr. Big who attacks you with a different machine each time. My favorite boss fight is one that involves three pressure plates and Mr. Big with a flamethrower on wheels. You only have three lives in which to complete a level but it saves your progress as long as you keep playing. So if you manage to take out a couple huts, they stay gone, unless you use up all your lives and restart.
For those looking for more than a story mode, Polar Panic offers a Puzzle Mode as well and a Survival Mode for an extra challenge. There are 50 puzzles to complete as fast as possible in the shortest amount of moves. You are graded on both areas. Initially only so many are unlocked and you must complete the ones before to unlock more. Survival mode is where things can definitely get a little furry. Here you can have up to 4 players pitted against each other and a horde of enemies until someone succumbs to the enemy. You can play this mode alone, but it's much more fun to play with others. It brings back memories of Bomberman from my childhood.
Polar Panic is presented in 720p so it may not be as eye-catching as other XBLA titles but their not bad at all. With all the action that can happen on the screen at one time it was probably best not to over do things visually. I could easily tell the difference between the two different types of block or the types of switches. The trappers each have their own distinctive look despite the red coats. The only issue I ran into was trying to figure out which line the entrances to the “spawn” huts were especially if they were on the left or right of the area. The locals were pretty and varied from the wilderness to back of a truck or cargo ship to that of an oil station.
Polar Panic has a dreamy kind of winter theme to its music which is presented in Dolby Digital. Once you get caught up in the gameplay you can here it but you’ll be paying more attention to the enemies around you to notice. The sound effects for Polar Panic are very important and are nicely well done. A perfect example would be that of the hunter tracker. He can hit you all the way across the map if you stay in his rifle sight path long enough. If your paying attention to other enemies and don’t realize that your in their sights the gun shot can sometimes give you enough warning.
Polar Panic offers a lot of play for the 800 MS Points ($10 dollars) that it costs. The Story Mode had me hooked and I couldn’t put the controller down. I just had to keep going from level to level. Puzzle Mode is fun yet challenging for those that want a more peaceful experience. There is also a lot of family fun to be had with the Survival mode. If you do play with friends or family there are 3 different modes to choose from there.
I had a lot of fun playing Polar Panic and except for the sometimes confusing path on the spawn points I didn’t find anything that I didn’t like about it. The puzzles were challenging, the story mode was comical and reminded me a bit of Sonic, and I had a blast playing with friends in the Survival mode. It’s definitely worth picking up and perfect for the season.