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Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: Avatar Panic (XBLIG)

Milkstone Studios' Avatar Panic is a super simple game that's amazingly fun and addictive to play. It's also one of the multitude of indie titles that uses your avatar as an... avatar.

When you think about it, shouldn't there be more bigger budget titles that make use of the Avatars? Off the top of my head, I'm thinking of Keflings, some Kinect games... and... I don't know. That's about it really. The Avatars were a pretty big addition to Live when they debuted and it seems like Microsoft just doesn't do all that much with them. Enter Avatar Panic.

The gameplay in AP is a fairly straightforward affair. Your Xbox Live Avatar (or your friend's Avatar) runs back and forth on the screen, occasionally dealing with an obstacle, while shooting away at balloons that bounce all around the rectangular arena. Like I said, an amazingly simple premise.

But this one is a little bit deceptive too, because while the basic idea behind the game is simplistic- the onscreen action can be anything but. See, there are all kinds of balloons- some round, some squared off, some heavy (they fall faster) and when you hit them, they separate into even smaller ones that are harder still to nail. Of course it's not helping that all you have to pop 'em with is a grapple gun that looks like it's shooting the tendrils from Prototype.

Yup, ladders. Having Donkey Kong flashbacks?
No really, it does. Your lil' guy is always looking (and aiming) to the sky. The action button fires a grapple arrow with a red rope attached- it really does look like one of Alex Mercer's blade arm's gone crazy. Anyway... when the arrowhead hits something, it holds for a second popping anything that touches it, and then vanishes.

Any part of your projectile will pop a balloon (even the rope) and there are also weapon powerups to grab that can grant you a little extra oomph. Pickups like plungers that hold on for a few more beats, and clocks that stop time, and even machine guns that pump out shots in a spread that's very reminiscent of Contra's famous gun. They're all very useful indeed, especially when the balloons start to split.

99 red balloons go by...
It's not a rare occurrence to see a screen littered with tiny balloons that are all about a second away from bopping your 'you' in the noggin. One hit and that's it here. And while you do have an unlimited amount of continues, your global ranking will take massive hits should you fail and have to restart a level. Something I did way more than I'd like to admit.

The graphics in Avatar Panic are actually pretty nice, so nice I was a bit surprised by the overall look. The backdrops are colorful and interesting and, while the balloons are nothing special, there are little characters that appear at different intervals to hinder your progress- and they're all pretty colorful too, and cute in a Saturday morning cartoon way.

There's also a 'survival' type mode that throws tons of different balloons at you in random succession that's worth mentioning and four player support as well. Other than that though, there isn't really all that much to say about the game.

Geo. Metric. Balloons. Mind. Blown.
It's simple, crazy fun that's addictive in a 'one more round' kind of way and it's perfect as a palette cleanser between more intense gaming sessions. In my opinion, pretty high praise for something this basic. Not too shabby at all- and there are definitely way worse ways to spend 80mspts.

- Jason M





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Review: Avatar Panic (XBLIG)
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