Developer: FDG Entertainment GmbH & Co.KG
Price: $1.99 Download on the App Store
In the arms race to supplant the reigning kings (e.g Flight Control, Pocket God, etc.) of one dollar casual gaming, development teams have to bring it hard. FDG Entertainment's Parachute Panic is one the latest games looking to make some noise in that space. There isn’t an exact science to creating the right kind of game that is quick and to grasp and substantial enough to encourage repeat play, but as gamers, we know it when we see and play it.
Parachute Panic gets it right from laying out a simple premise that easily communicates the point of the game. This is a level based game where you have to direct free falling skydivers to safety on top of sailboats wading in the water. You launch the skydivers’ parachutes by tapping on them, and it works as advertised. Along with launching parachutes, you can also manipulate wind conditions to influence the direction your skydivers.
The last piece of the Parachute Panic gameplay experience is wrapped around enemies environmental hazards. You’ll have to contend with random things like helicopters, rainy clouds, and UFOs on every level. Five deaths of your skydivers will end the game, and you earn points from progressing through the levels for placement on scoreboards. In theory, this should add up to an original and fun game, but some terrible layout and pacing decisions dramatically have an impact on the fun. More on that later...
The presentation layers in Parachute Panic are both inspired and well executed. The action is set on top of a crinkled sheet of graph paper and smoothly animated sketch illustrations. FDG Entertainment made a smart decision in using this approach as I’ve always found that a stylized approach always works better than going for the realism angle on the iPhone.
In my 20+ years of gaming, I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that have had A capella tracks, but you’ll find yourself singing “The Game is Over...” before you know it. To borrow a catchy tune from McDonald’s to describe my overall impressions of the presentation, I’d say, “Ba Da Ba Ba Bahhhh...I’m lovin’ it!”
It’s a shame that such a beautifully presented game is let down by poor pacing. To put it simply, Parachute Panic is hard. I’m not sure who thought tapping on enemies and environmental hazards five times to kill them was a good idea, but it’s not fun and it amplifies my next point.
The difficulty level is criminally hard because there is just too much going on. By the third level, I felt as if the difficulty level ramped up way too fast as the screen was filled with an orgy of skydivers, helicopters, UFOs, and rain clouds. Some may brand me a weak sauce gamer with this critique, but Parachute Panic would be served well to examine how well Flight Control gradually ups the ante in a fair way.
All is not lost here though. FDG Entertainment seems to be aware of the shortcomings of Parachute Panic as they tease that an easy mode and online leaderboards are coming soon. While I don’t see this beating out Flight Control in the long run, Parachute Panic has the potential to be a polished casual gaming experience down the road.