Panda Craze Review– The Clone That Had It All
Panda Craze from TikGames didn’t get much hype. In fact, after seeing that Panda Craze is the only new mini released on last week’s store update, I was sorely disappointed. The initial screenshots didn’t really hypnotize me. Without even playing the game, I hastily concluded that reviewing this game will be a chore, an act of duty, a forced self-sacrifice.
Panda Craze is a shameless clone of Lode Runner. It’s exactly Lode Runner in a Panda costume. You control Tik-Ling (the Panda) and instead of guards chasing you around, you’ll have Hunters, who will chase you and catch you and throw you into the zoo. At first, you’ll be blazing across levels without a scratch. And then you’ll discover you’re not playing Lode Runner anymore, but also a fragment of Bomberman, and a drop of Bubble Bobble.
*The screenshots in this post are from the PC version
If you aren’t familiar with the nature Lode Runner, here’s some history lesson. Lode Runner is an action platformer where your objective is to collect all the gold per level, and then you escape to the next level. You are armed with an ability to dig a hole into the floor, either to complete puzzles or simply to trap the guards who are about to defeat you with a single body contact.
In Panda Craze, you’ll be, obviously, controlling a panda. You retain your same ability of digging a hole into the floor. Just substitute “gold” with “varieties of lanterns” and you’ll have Lode Runner: Panda Version.
Panda Craze, however, transcends from being just a clone. It borrows some ideas from familiar arcade games like Bubble Bobble and Bomberman. The influences from the mentioned arcade games are very minor. For the Bubble Bobble portion, Tik-Ling can pick up a tool that allows him to temporarily trap the hunters by blowing a huge bubble at them. The bubbles large enough to capture a full-grown man. For the Bomberman portion, Tik-Ling can also pick up bombs to reduce the walls, the floors and the hunters into smithereens. Alright, the Bomberman portion is not a minor influence but a major one.
Like Lode Runner, you can only dig on adjacent blocks, not directly beneath you. The soil does regenerate over time and you yourself cannot climb from the hole you just dug. The hunters do carry with them the lanterns if they pass by them, and they can climb their way up from the pit. If a hunter dies from the mysterious regenerating earth, he will be respawned to the exact location where he was initially stationed.
The controls are smooth; you have no right to blame the game if you get caught. You can use either the D-pad or the Analog Stick for moving, X for digging, O for the bombs, Square for Dynamites, Triangle for tools and Down+X to Drill stone floors. Yes, Tik-Ling can transform into a tornado that can cut through the stone floor below him. Don’t even try drilling through a hunter because you’ll end up in a cage. The difference between digging and drilling is: you can only dig through earth, which regenerates through time and drilling works only on stone surface and won’t grow back ever. Well, until you get caught or commit suicide by pressing Select, the level resets. But these additions are not shoved to you on the get-go. Instead the game will introduce it to you level by level, until you find yourself perplexed and/or confused on how to manage all of these features. You are not Bomberman that can pull out bombs as you like; you are limited to what the levels offer you. More often than not, you’ll be conservative in all of what you’re doing.
The levels are pure genius, if you like action-platforming with a lot of puzzle-solving, stop reading and buy this game already. Though the difficulty is not consistent, I think it is deliberate so that you can adapt to the new items and environment. In level 12, I got stuck for a long time, and I completed it in more than 20 minutes real time, and that’s my last attempt out of five. But for the succeeding levels, I managed to complete them in seconds. All because it was a transition from the Polar region to the Caverns. Surprised? Yes, the terrain changes!
The graphics are way below average. I can see artifacts popping out everywhere. The game begs for anti-aliasing. The music is mediocre bordering hideous. And there is no level-editor included. I believe they have it in the PC version. You don’t have “lives”. Game over is up to you. Which is rather disappointing, the only bragging rights you have is the “Best Time” per level.
This is an upfront rip-off. But instead of crawling under the shadows of its source, it transcended, like every clone should. The lack of lives or credits and the absence of the level-editor is a total let-down (all of which is present in the PC version). Its aesthetic value didn’t even try to help. Still, games are made to provide fun for the players, and Panda Craze provides it, one level at a time.