The diabolical Mr. Big and Globoco Inc. are ruthlessly felling the arctic forests and partaking in off-shore oil-drilling without concern for the adorable wildlife or their environment. Typically, this would be the type of inconvenience handled by Mr. Gore, but in Polar Panic you play as a polar bear. Not just any polar bear, however, you play as a polar bear named Polar Bear. Okay, so our protagonistís parents werenít too imaginative, but does this ice cube-sliding action-puzzler have enough creativity to grab you and your cold cash?
Polar Panicís main Story Mode is a simple, yet hectic affair consisting of fifty mazes predominantly full of snow and ice blocks. Snow blocks disintegrate when kicked, while ice blocks slide until they hit another block or the edge of the environment. The goal of each level is to wipe out the human enemies as quickly as possible by shoving ice blocks into them and their igloo spawning points. The levels also have other objectives that include destroying snowmen for bonus points and rescuing your caged polar bear friends. These secondary goals are where your mind will truly be tested. To liberate your furry companions, youíll often need to carefully maneuver special dynamite crates and strategically slide blocks onto weight-activated switches. Since every level has a rigid time limit, meeting these optional goals offers a nice challenge and encourages the replaying of stages. Additionally, after every ten stages, youíll be faced with a boss battle featuring Mr. Big and his latest Dr. Robotnik-esque mechanical contraption.
The differing kinds of enemies are really what makes the game enjoyable and a bit similar to the Bomberman-style of gameplay. Early on, standard trappers simply carry clubs, but new enemy types are quickly added with flamethrowers, freeze rays, dart guns, and dynamite. This wintry mix of villains ups the ante not only in terms of needing to avoid the varied attacks, but in also providing laughable opportunities of baiting the enemies into wiping one another out. I also got a chuckle out of my own demises as, more often than not, they seemed to be self-inflicted deaths of ďpainting myself into a cornerĒ. Lending to additional Wile E. Coyote moments are tanker-based stages with oil barrels rolling back and forth as the ship sways. Less enjoyable were the few lives I lost due to it being somewhat difficult to differentiate between snow cubes (white) and ice cubes (different shade of white) when the action became frenzied.
Along with the Story Mode, Polar Panic also includes two other modes: Puzzle Mode and Survivor Mode. Puzzle Mode contains fifty enemy-free stages with a focus on timely completion using as few moves as possible. After only a handful of puzzles, though, I became disinterested in these slower-paced crate-pushing exercises. Fortunately, the Survival Mode more closely resembles the play style found in Story Mode and allows up to four people on the same couch to deal with wave after wave of enemies with a few different competitive and co-operative game options. What little I played of the Survivor Mode seemed fun (especially if you have kids), but the local only multiplayer limits your options.
All in all, Polar Panicís simple premise combined with the inevitably humorous downfalls of the evil trappers and Polar Bear alike kept me amused for the two hours it took to work my way through the Story Mode. That said, itís unlikely that Iíll return to finish the Puzzle Mode or take the time to rescue all of the polar bears and earn the top rankings.
Outstanding | Very Good | Fair | Poor | Awful
Recommended Buy Price: $6.00
Current MSRP: $10.00
Polar Panic was provided for review by Valcon Games. The gameís Story Mode was finished on Normal difficulty in two hours, but very few bears were saved in the making of this review. An additional hour was spent trying out the Puzzle and Survivor Modes. I accumulated 7 Achievements for 95 GamerScore, and completing the Story Mode also unlocked two Gamer Pics. Polar Panic is available on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.