Panic in the Park
Review by MrLipid
Play It Again ... For the First Time
Panic in the Park. Another adventure game that time forgot.
A Windows 3.1 game released in 1995 ... the year computer users
were in the throes of dumping 3.1 in favor of Redmond's latest promise
of stability. As word spread that Panic could not be completed
on anything other than Windows 3.1, interest flagged and, as a Google
search will reveal, very few reviews were written.
Thanks to a bit of prodding from PGI
and flush from cracking the ridiculously simple save game file format
I took up the challenge of seeing what could be done with Panic.
I was given invaluable assistance in this enterprise by fellow
reviewer Scout and his trusty Win3.1 partition. Thanks to his efforts,
it was possible to come up with a workaround for the portion of
Panic that makes it crash on anything other than Win 3.1.
You can read all about this workaround here.
Our Story So Far ...
The premise of the game is a bit like a Harlequin romance. Can
Jamie (Erika Eleniak), the beautiful heir to Skyview Park, keep
her evil identical twin sister Janie (also Erika Eleniak ... what
are the odds?) from turning their father's dream into a parking
lot? Can you, as a dashing reporter, help Jamie find the deed that
will establish her claim to Skyview? Will you be able to unmask
the thief responsible for swiping and hiding the deed? And will
you be able to do it all in just one night?
Our Stories So Far ...
Like Psychic Detective or Mode,
Panic is designed to be played more than once. Every new game
brings a different thief, different clues and a different location
for the all-important deed. The hype on the box claims that there
are "more than 200 different outcomes" possible. Could
be, though I suspect the enthusiasm of even the most enthusiastic
players will begin to fade after seeing each of the nine suspects
Of course, a game that promises "more than 200 different outcomes"
is not going to be able to build much of a case against any one
suspect. And certainly not with only nine suspects and a half dozen
hiding places for the deed. Players seeking to unmask a killer by
a process of logical elimination might be happier with Clue.
That said, Panic offers three opportunities in each game
for players to pick up substantial hints as to the identity of the
What's All This, Then?
Panic is a combination of FMV (1.6+ GB worth), Myst-style
slide show, arcade games, a few twiddle puzzles and a logic puzzle.
As is standard in the FMV games of the period, players click from
one slide to the next and are surprised now and then by a grainy
.AVI file. The graphics, while dated, hold up quite well for a game
published in 1995. And though the acting is frequently broad, especially
among the concession operators, the performances are appropriate
and specific given the material. Having spent hours playing Panic,
I've yet to find myself tired of the title. I like the mood
of the world of Panic, and that goes a long way.
Long Day at the Midway
Skyview Park is broken up into four concourses or midways, each
sporting three arcade games and a resident guide. As the player
moves from game to game, the concourse guides offer comments about
the park's non-game operator inhabitants. These inhabitants are
also collectively known as suspects. An arcade victory may or may
not prompt the game operator to share additional information on
one or more of these potential thieves. There are also clues to
be observed, though not picked up, as the player wanders each concourse.
Once all three of a concourse's games have been won, the operator
of the third game will present the player with a special coin for
the Oracle Machine in the Gazebo. Drop in the coin and move on to
the next concourse. And the next. And the next.
Once all four special coins have been won and deposited with the
Oracle Machine, it is time for the nonarcade portion of Panic.
This takes the form of a couple modest sliders, a potentially
game-ending pattern puzzle, various objects to locate, a collection
of levers and switches to set, a potentially game-ending logic puzzle,
a potentially game-ending word puzzle, the final hunt for the deed
and a potentially game-ending name-the-thief puzzle. No question,
the game has a lot of potential. Or at least a lot of potentially
Easy Does It
While it might be tempting to fault developer Imagination Pilots
Entertainment for making the end of the game a series of "game
over" booby traps, a closer look reveals that IPE was, in fact,
extremely generous with clues. Most answers are just a screen or
two away. Some are actually onscreen simultaneously with the puzzle.
And, if one knows where to look, Panic will reveal the identity
of the thief within the first few moments of each new game.
Slow at First, then Faster and Faster
A tremendous amount of effort was put into the production of Panic.
And it is well worth one's time to savor all that effort the
first time one wanders through each of the four concourses. The
second or third time through, one can move much more quickly. The
velocity that comes of completing each concession as rapidly as
possible creates, if only briefly, the feeling of an evening at
an amusement park that, while it has seen better days, is still
worth a visit.
Technical Note: Panic runs flawlessly in Win3.1 and,
with a bit of hex editing, flawlessly in Win95 and Win98. It does
not run in XP.
Developer: Imagination Pilots Entertainment
Release Date: 1995
Four Fat Chicks Links
486/33 MHz or better 100% IBM compatible system
8 MB RAM and 5 MB fixed disk space
640×480 SVGA monitor with 256 colors
Windows 3.1 or Windows for Workgroups 3.11
MS-DOS 5.0 or higher and Microsoft CD-ROM extensions
16-bit sound card and speakers
2X CD-ROM drive
Where to Find It
Prices/links current as of 06/26/03
Links provided for informational purposes only.
FFC makes no warranty with regard to any transaction entered into
by any party(ies).