Panic in the Park

Review by MrLipid
July 2003

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 of Milo, 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 caught once.

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 thief.

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 abrupt endings.

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. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Imagination Pilots Entertainment
Publisher: WarnerActive
Release Date: 1995

Available for: Windows

Four Fat Chicks Links

Player Feedback
Hex Editing


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System Requirements

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

CD Access $9.95

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).

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No reproduction in whole or in part without express written permission.