from ANTIC vol. 3, no. 8 / December 1984

EPYX, Inc.
1043 Kiel Court
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
(408) 745-0700
$34.95, 32K-disk or cassette

Reviewed by Fred Pinho

Puzzle Panic is one of the new breed of hybrid games combining puzzles with arcade action. It consists of eleven puzzles, with variations for a total of 42 screens. To fully complete the game, you must go through each screen in correct sequence. You then get a chance at the biggest challenge, the "Metasequence". To solve it, you must have deduced the meaning of the numerous symbols used in the game and the correct order of the puzzles. EPYX offers a contest drawing for those who've correctly completed the puzzle. The winner gets a weekend at an Atlantic City casino with Ken Uston.

Once you've completed a puzzle, gates open on the screen. Each gate contains a symbol. You must choose the correct symbol to move forward, to the next puzzle. An incorrect choice transports you back to earlier puzzles.

You maneuver an animated light bulb named Benny to solve each puzzle. Built-in hazards range from time limits to frequent use of a monster chaser. The chaser's advantage is that it can move diagonally while Benny cannot. The monster always goes straight for Benny so that planning moves while avoiding the chaser gets hectic. Although the main objective is to solve each puzzle, score is also kept. If Benny gets zapped, you lose a life which reduces your score. Unlike arcade games, you can stay with a puzzle, no matter how many lives you lose, until it's solved.

The puzzles range in difficulty from easy to hard. Determining what's required to solve the puzzle is usually easy. The challenge comes in doing it without getting zapped by the chaser or running out of time. The puzzles get more difficult as you progress through the sequence. Typical puzzles involve placing a moving card in the correct sequence, capturing polygons in the correct order, following a moving block without losing contact, climbing a wall of color and mimicking a series of notes. The graphics are simple yet cute and colorful. A nice touch is the ability to call up any puzzle for practice via the [OPTION] and [SELECT] keys. Simple tunes play in the background for each puzzle. If that annoys you, there is an option to turn them off.

Puzzle Panic is a nice blend of puzzle solving, strategy and arcade action. The puzzles are nowhere as frustrating as the typical adventure game. Neither are the arcade segments as demanding as the typical shoot-em-up. For those not gifted with the joystick touch (the majority of us), this game will give a sense of accomplishment since every screen is conquerable.

The game has been crafted with obvious attention to detail and is fun to play. Ken Uston, the blackjack whiz turned software designer, made good use of his time away from the casinos.