Caution: Happy Fun Ball may suddenly accelerate to dangerous speeds.
At first glance, Touch Panic appears to be some sort of new version of Pipe Dream. Shapes of the tiles aside, Touch Panic is actually quite different from the 80s puzzle game. One thing is for certain: Touch Panic is a unique entry to the action puzzle genre.
The basic premise of the game is to guide a Kirby-esque happy pink ball to a drain hole by shifting tiles around so that the ball travels along paths formed by adjoining tiles. In addition, smaller balls also roll around the stage and must be picked up in various orders in order to complete a given task. The smaller balls come in four colors, with combinations ranging from a simple pair to a massive train of fourteen balls. While the rules are basic, achieving the goals can be challenging. In addition, there are almost a dozen different gameplay modes, adding variety to the game.
Tiles are moved using the stylus. Lines of tiles can be shifted by one tile per move in horizontal or vertical directions. Tiles shifted off the edge of the field will reappear on the other side of the field, as in Yoshi’s Cookie. A square of four tiles can also be rotated clockwise or counterclockwise using the appropriate stylus gestures. The pink ball’s current path is highlighted in pink, and touching the ball will make it quickly travel to the end of its path, picking up any other balls it encounters along the way.
In the main mode of the game, the player is given five lives. There are certain combo goals displayed on the top screen. Each time the pink ball reaches the drain hole, a life is lost. However, if a combo is brought down the drain hole, a life is restored. Thus, the overall goal is to meet each combo goal to avoid running out of lives.
In the standard mode, gameplay starts off slowly, and players may find themselves waiting for balls to reach their destination, but the challenge ramps up quickly, and players may be hard-pressed to manage all of the tiles, balls, and goals on screen. The problem is that there are so many things going, it becomes difficult to effectively set up combos, particularly the long chains, without something going wrong. Hence the “Panic" in Touch Panic.
There are many variations on standard mode, including time trials to reach specific scores or numbers of combos, a two-minute score attack, and even a time trial where every ball combo in the list must be completed. With 46 total chains, and some chains reaching fourteen balls in length, this is not an easy task. Several modes feature an optional evil purple ball. In these modes, touching the purple ball results in a loss of life. The purple ball also destroys the smaller balls upon contact.
For a change of pace, puzzle mode loses the other balls, leaving only the primary pink ball. In this mode, a limited number of tile moves are given. After these moves are made, the pink ball will automatically begin traveling. If the tiles are lined up correctly, the ball will reach the goal sink and the level is cleared; otherwise it must be restarted. The game features dozens of puzzles to clear.
Interestingly, the game has both single card local wireless multiplayer as well as Wi-Fi Connection capability. In multiplayer mode, players play on separate fields. Scoring combos sends an evil purple ball to the opposing player, which can transform the smaller balls into even more purple balls that must be avoided. Unfortunately, online multiplayer only works when there are others to play against, and it doesn’t seem that this game has enough popularity to support that.
From the happy atmosphere and music, to an exclamation of “Yatta!" upon level completion, a defining characteristic of Touch Panic is its very Japanese feel. As a puzzle game, the game is fairly import friendly, however, the menus and goals of the level are completely in Japanese, which could make the game a little difficult to play for those who do not know the language.
Touch Panic is a unique game that some action puzzle fans might enjoy, though it’s not for everyone. Interested players will have to import the game since there is no scheduled release outside of Japan. You can order a copy from our import partners at Lik-Sang.