Pan Pan is a little indie game developed by Spelkraft and released on the Nintendo Eshop late in 2017. The game is a top down puzzle / adventure where the player solves a variety of different and clever environmental puzzles in the aim of building a broken spaceship. While this game is short, is it really worth your time and money?
The character controls are super simple as you can walk and look around freely with the use of both the left and right analog sticks respectively. The developers even went out of their way to add touch controls for the Nintendo Switch which really helps for accessibility and comfort of play.
The camera is on a 360 degree rotation around the main character which helps when trying to figure out different puzzles and you can also change the camera controls in settings, which is a nice option. The main game consists of a variety of clever environmental puzzles which test your logic and spacial awareness. There are no extra complexities to the gameplay and that’s what I like about it because anyone can pick it up and play.
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World / Level Design
I rarely got stuck in Pan Pan’s puzzles thanks to some great puzzle design. The game doesn’t explicitly tell you what to do but through subtle environmental clues, allowing you to easily come to realisations of how to progress. That’s the one thing Pan Pan does a lot; it rarely ever holds the player’s hand. Throughout the whole game, there isn’t a single sign or text box appearing and yet I knew what I had to do and where I had to go thanks to some great world design.
Pan Pan takes place on a foreign planet which allows the world to feel unique and surreal. Throughout the game, you explore different locales on the planet, culminating in satisfying ways when the areas connect to each other and the game opens up more. The fact that the different areas connected in multiple ways gave the sense that this is a connected world and not some artificial creation. This is also evident in the little details in the landscape which really gives the place a functional feeling, like how the mining facility is empty and full of weird gas plants.
The story in Pan Pan is really quite simple; the main character has grounded their spaceship on a foreign planet. The foreign species on the planet decide to assist in helping the character get back to outer space. The player must search for the spaceship parts which are scattered throughout the environment. It’s up to the player to find the parts and get back into orbit.
While it may have a simple premise, it also adds onto that with story beats as you progress and interact with the environment. Many may say that its simple story is a negative however I don’t think that is the case at all. I think the story does a sufficient job at compelling the player to play the game which is all a video game story should really do, it should act as a backdrop for the main gameplay which is what Pan Pan’s does.
Graphics / Art Direction
Pan Pan is purely a joy to watch. Visually, this game is very beautiful and I love the minimalistic aesthetic the developers went with. Environments are nicely crafted with little details scattered throughout the world. What makes the aesthetic so visually pleasing is that you can view the environments from a multitude of different angles thanks to the full 360 degree camera. The semi voxel aesthetic is further enhanced when viewed at different angles.
The game doesn’t just look great, it runs great as well with a full 60fps and 1080p performance when docked and a nice 60fps and 720p when portable. However, there was an instance when the frames dropped ever so slightly from 60fps to about 45fps. It wasn’t jarring at all, however it was definitely noticeable; it didn’t take me out of the experience when playing. Many other players might not even notice the slight dip at all.
Music / Sound Design
Pan Pan’s music further deepens the player’s engagement in the world. The music serves its purpose in creating this weird and surreal atmosphere that you are on a mysterious foreign planet, whilst adding a layer of wonder and curiosity through some of its lighter tracks. The man behind this is Simon Viklund and he does a fantastic job at complementing the game’s world with the soundtrack.
In the game, you collect various spaceship parts. Every time you go back to the ship and add an extra piece, the music in that area adds an extra layer of percussion which gives a feeling that you are progressing and getting closer to the end goal. This little detail may not seem like much to the average player but the impact it has is quite big, even though they may not even notice it happening.
Final Score : 87%
Pan Pan is a great game and I highly recommend that you go check it out on the Nintendo Eshop considering it is quite cheap compared to other indie games. What makes this game so great is all the subtle things that add to the player’s experience. Not only that but the game has some top notch puzzles which are very well designed and a joy to solve. At the end of the day, if you have some spare time and want a game that can make you smile and think at the same time, then this is a game I would recommend to absolutely anyone.
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