Holy packing peanuts, guys! Peter Panic! is really fun!
I’ve had my eye on this one for a while now. Musical theatre is a big part of my life (I got my Bachelor’s in Theatre), and in fact it’s a huge part of American culture. In a time when both musical theatre and video games are thriving and achieving new things, I’m sincerely surprised that the two platforms haven’t crossed more often. Regardless, the fine people (read: crazy people) behind Adult Swim Games’ newest outing have graced us with Peter Panic!, and I implore you all to give this one a shot.
Peter Panic! starts with a young man, named Peter (played by the endlessly innocent Remy Germinario) returning home with a fancy directing degree to find the local theater in shambles. Vowing to return the theater to its former glory, Peter sets out to find funding, staff, and cast members for his production of Peter Pan. This journey takes the protagonist across town to a packing peanut factory, a museum, and even a game development studio.
Gameplay consists of a multitude of WarioWare-like minigames at each location. These 5-second minigames vary from jumping on turtles to dropping packing peanuts into cardboard boxes, and they become faster and more complicated as you progress. The beauty of these minigames is in their simplicity. They don’t come with tutorials or instructions, but their intuitive design (and trial and error) will guide you through.
Of course, the music and characters are what make Peter Panic! so special and unique. The cast that the creative team has assembled is an extremely talented group with an impressive resume. While there’s not a weak member in the group, a few truly stand out. Of course, Germinario’s Peter is a gentle and affable protagonist with a very pleasant voice. Emily Skeggs (Fun Home) as Emily is a scene stealer (level stealer?), Gideon Glick (Spring Awakening) as Gideon is a classic sidekick, and Nikko Benson as The CEO is simply a riot.
The music is bright, vibrant, and always fun, reflecting the light-hearted tone of the game. Ben Bonnema has truly composed a lively and vivacious score. However, none of the music truly stays with you, and an unfortunate downside of the musical-game structure is that none of the songs ever really feel like complete songs, but rather shorter excerpts. It’s important to note that these are minor qualms when the music fits so well into the atmosphere of the game.
The game is short. Experienced and determined gamers can clear the main story in two hours or less. In fact, only “Act 1” is available now. However, the game features a decent amount of depth in additional content and unlockables, including costumes for Peter, an arcade, more difficult levels and, of course, producing the actual production of Peter Pan. Though the game itself is brief, it ends up feeling quite full.
And that is important as you look into the pricing structure of the game. The game itself is free to download (Score!), but the caveat is that players must pay $2.99 in order to save your game. I spoke with the creator of the game, James Marion, and he told me that their thinking behind this pricing was that, because of the unique elements of the game, they thought people would get more out of playing it than looking at screenshots. They also believed that, due to the short main game, some gamers would be able to play through the game in an hour or two without saving at all (You can listen to the entirety of my interview with James Marion HERE).
I appreciate this approach in concept, but it is definitely off-putting when you download a free game and then must pay $2.99 to save it or enjoy it for an extended period of time. It’s not a question of whether the game is worth $2.99 or not, as I honestly think it is. It’s rather an issue of perception. It feels deceitful, in a sense, to list a game as free with “in-app purchases” and then charge money for a fundamental function of the game. That being said, I also understand their wish to give a “demo” of sorts to players. I would recommend continuing to search for a different pricing strategy for Act 2.
All of that being said, Peter Panic! is a ridiculously fun game. The development team and cast have created a beautiful and engaging work of art that blends two fantastic mediums into one outrageous mobile jaunt. Though the music doesn’t quite stick with you and the pricing can be off-putting, the game itself is a pure joy which is only fueled by a hilarious score. If you enjoy video games, musicals, or life, pick up this game.
Just watch out for the soul-eating demon! And the best part? There are definitely NO soul-eating demons!