STAFF REVIEW of Organic Panic (Xbox One)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016.
by Adam Dileva

Organic Panic Box art You'd think I'd learn my lesson by now, as for all the years I've been reviewing games I still occasionally find myself pre-judging a game before I even play it. I'll be honest, I did this a little bit with Organic Panic. Not that I wrote it off, as I go into any game review with a fresh and unbiased mindset, but I know I most likely wouldn't have given it the time of day and check it out if I didn't receive it otherwise. It's times like this that I'm glad that I'm sometimes wrong, as I genuinely had a fun time with Organic Panic once I allowed myself to enjoy it.

If I had to describe its core gameplay, it would be part puzzle game, part platformer, and part destruction. From still screenshots you might think it's a game akin to that of any of the Worms games, but there's more to it than that. It's a crazy little game where you play as vegetables battling against the evil meats and cheese. I'm not making this up.

Organic Panic tells its story via comic book page slideshows. The narrative revolves around the evil Meats and Cheeses, led by mastermind Baby Cheese, hunting down the good natured Fruits and Vegetables in attempt to take over the world. It's up to Cherry, Carrot, Kiwi, and others to stop them once and for all. Again, I'm not making this up.

While the story is told through the pun-filled comic pages, as it's obviously a backdrop to frame the gameplay, it is at least a somewhat interesting tale that pushes you to complete more stages. While you are able to quickly skip the story pages, you might want to spend the few quick moments to go through them if you want to laugh at the terrible "dad-quality" jokes contained within.

Powered by the DAFT Engine (Destructible and Fluid Technology), you'll be using physics to solve a majority of the puzzles contained within. Sometimes that means destroying pillars to cause a crash, melting ice, starting fires, or drowning some meat foes. With over 200 single player levels you'll have to eventually start to think 'outside the box' to solve some of these cleverly designed stages in ways that don't always seem apparent at first.

Each of the 12 chapters are broken up into multiple stages. These stages start out quite simple and are quick to solve, but as you progress they become much more involved and more difficult. You start the game as Cherry, who's able to shoot dirt once you've collected enough power-up gems. This dirt can harm enemies, but it can also allow you to cut through certain materials as well, allowing for multiple ways to complete stages. You then unlock Kiwi, who is able to shoot water (again, once you've collected the power-up gems) and swim underwater. Carrot can climb any surface while also being able to shoot fireballs. Many of the early stages will have you simply controlling one character per stage, but eventually you'll have to control multiple characters in a single stage to solve how to escape.

If you're like me you'll gravitate to trying to kill all of the enemies with your abilities, but eventually you'll reach stages where this is very difficult, either by design or not, and you'll have to rely on other abilities to allow you to progress. Carrot is decent at defeating foes, but Cherry has a very small health pool, so it's difficult to engage in battle depending on who you're controlling.

The main goal of each level is to simply reach the exit portal. Of course there is always some type of obstacle in your way, be it a handful of enemies, an elaborate physics based puzzle, or the portal is far out of normal reach. This is where you'll have to use the varying abilities of each character, sometimes altering the stages to reach a previously inaccessible area. Maybe you'll need to cut through a support beam to send something collapsing below to use as a ramp, or blow a whole in an overlying water reservoir to flood the area below. Stages with these types of solutions are among the most enjoyable by far.

While your main goal is to always reach the exit portal, there are secondary objectives to complete should you want a challenge. To get the best ranking you need to collect the hidden gem, kill all of the enemies, and reach the portal. I eventually reached a point where simply getting to the exit was enough of a challenge, so those of you who want to really push yourself will have your work cut out for you as you try to finish the rest of the gold star checklist.

I do wish some of the levels had a different requirement for obtaining gold, such as being time based or solving a stage in specific way (like drowning all enemies for example). Given that the majority of the stages will last a minute or two (once you've figured out a solution), there wasn't many of those 'ah hah!" moments when you finally figure something out. That's not to say it's not satisfying, I just wish there were more alternative ways to complete stages in more creative ways. Truth be told, I found myself stuck more than a few times, and I had to walk away more times than I expected too just to cool down and think.

For those able to play with friends on the couch, there is also a multiplayer mode that allows for some versus chaos and co-op puzzle solving, depending on your mood. There are even options for 3 and 4 players as well should you have a few friends over who want to have a good time helping you out or who want to destroy each other. It's a shame that the Xbox One version doesn't have the same level creation and sharing that the PC counterpart does, as I believe that would have added some longevity to the game overall.

While killing meats and cheese in the beginning was fun, you learn quickly that shooting your way out of a situation rarely goes in your favor, meaning you'll have to use your wits instead. Figuring out a way to defeat enemies and solve a stage by using physics is oddly satisfying, as causing a flood to drown cheese is more entertaining than trying to shoot them with fireballs as a carrot.

Despite its kooky and out there concept, Organic Panic has a surprising amount of appeal and at least twice the amount of stages I was expecting. Sure it has some flaws, like very inaccurate aiming leading to some frustration now and then, but it's still charming and has hours of content within. I think we can all agree that the moral of the story here is to make sure to eat your fruits and vegetables, or else the meat and cheese will become a super power and take over the world. Let's make food great again!

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10



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