Format reviewed: PlayStation
Submitted by: Michael Coops
Now, I know roller-coasters are usually among the most dangerous and therefore exciting rides, but can you honestly say you’ve never thought the Big One would be better if you were attacked by an evil looking Ms. Pac-Man “homage”; or that the Superman should actually make you feel heroic by letting you throw explosive oranges at zombie lumberjacks?
If you actually have thought either of those bizarrely specific things there's a good chance you need psychiatric help; but don't fret because Mad Panic Coaster gives you the chance to live this particular dream.
I’m at a loss for how to describe its madness. You’re on a runaway coaster that you steer about the track to avoid guillotines and jumps and such. You have what looks like explosive oranges to chuck at the world’s most bizarre enemies. There's one diamond on each level that gives you score and replenishes one bar of your health- which you have to keep above zero for three laps. That’s what happens; but that doesn’t describe the feeling of playing it.
The levels are platforming stereotypes but usually with a “mad” or “evil” theme. While the levels are all similar in style (it’s about rollercoasters, what do you expect?) the locations are varied; and the levels are short enough to keep it from overstaying its welcome.
There’s an ice level with Yeti girls and tumbling snowmen; and a forest with packs of wolves led by Red Riding Hood. The bosses range from a pirate who attacks with beach balls and watermelons to a zombified Bambi-alike on a rolling log who throws acorns at you.
It’s incredibly fast. You can slow yourself down, but not only is this less fun, but it also makes you much more vulnerable to projectiles. You’re likely spend most of your time trying to keep from falling off the edges, and die the first few times you try a level, but it’s still somehow compelling.
You’re also likely to get quite used to seeing the sunbathing zombie who laughs at your failure from his deckchair on the continue screen. Generally the best way to survive is to hold up, tap fire and let your reflexes do the rest.
The sound track to the game is equally unusual and of a high quality… if you’re into its style. There’s a full sound test and an amusing intro with a zombie band that otherwise has nothing to do with the game.
One… slight problem is the insane difficulty curve which varies from extremely easy to requiring sheer luck for survival (“Lucky!” indeed) without warning or any semblance of balance throughout the game. The bosses in particular are prone to flooding the track with enough projectiles to kill you very quickly. The rest of the game is interesting enough for this to feel like a minor issue when by rights it should be game-breaking.
The biggest problem with MPC though is its obscurity. I probably don’t need to tell you this game never left Japan and that it’s hard to find. It hasn’t got a sequel either (not one I could find anyway). If you ever see it though it’s one of those games that makes it worth taking a chance on something different.
It's not an especially great game and it is pretty ugly (it mixes 2D sprites with low-poly-3D backgrounds) but it's honestly so unusual that I'd say it's worth playing at least once.