Sometimes you don't need overcomplicated graphics or intense engines to make a game enjoyable. Sometimes it only takes some good intentions and great execution.
This is the very definition of Polar Panic.
The only thing missing was coca-cola
Polar Panic is a typical puzzle game. Your goal, as a super-cute polar bear, is to move ice blocks around and help your friends escape cages, while kicking the crap out of mean corporate hired thugs. Sure it's a little liberal, you're only missing a Greenpeace logo somewhere, but it's still somewhat gratifying watching a bear solve puzzles and kick ass.
See Stephen Colbert, not all bears are Godless killing machines. They have good intentions sometimes.
Seriously speaking, Polar Panic is good at being a typical puzzle game. The amount of strategy you have to calculate in the limited amount of movements to make to escape a stage is nothing short of brilliant and frustrating. My wife and I worked our way through 40+ stages in the puzzle mode of the game (yes there are multiple modes; we'll talk about this later). Each stage increased in difficulty. The first seven or eight were primer stages that were meant for you to get use to the processes the game was throwing at you. You would start out with simply shifting ice blocks and avoiding hazards with baseball bats to sliding a box of explosives to get rid of cracked walls that stood in your way. What's always been bothersome about puzzle games is the lack of variety when it comes to figuring out stages. With Polar Panic, the different add-ons to make it through a stage (such as explosives, activator buttons or different types of ice) creates a nice bit of depth in the game that you don't find in a lot of games in this genre.
Speaking of varieties, you get three different modes of play in Polar Panic. Here's a breakdown:
Puzzle Mode -- This is my favorite mode in the game. Here you get 50 stages that challenge you. The first 10 aren't so bad, but 11 through 50 are a big polar pain in the butt. You have to be a pretty sharp and determined person to hand through all the stages and that's the rub. This mode will certainly frustrate the hell out of you, but it's worth it. Not only do you unlock bonuses for getting good grades on the stages (the faster you are and the less moves, the better the grades). Outside of the 'extras' you also will feel compelled to complete stages that you're constantly failing on. You want a true challenge from a puzzle game? Puzzle Mode in Polar Panic is going to use and abuse you. Again, it's worth the abuse.
Story Mode -- The story mode is a bit more watered down than the puzzle mode. It brings less of a challenge, but it is difficult. What you get with the Story Mode is just what it says, a story. You get a hokey, agenda setting story of how poor polar bears are getting captured and how a corporation is moving into their area in hopes of decimating everything they know. Run on sentence? Definitely. Interesting story? It pushes the puzzles a long better, but isn't as intense as the Puzzle Mode. Younger kids will love this mode, but older kids (such as myself) won't care for it as much. It's still good, though.
Survivor Mode -- The survivor mode of the game for the gamer that has four dedicated gaming friends. It's good, but certainly not as good as the other two (at least in my opinion). I don't like depending on others for fun (my attitude towards Super Mario Brothers Wii indicates that), so unless it's called Bomberman, no thank you. Still, if you have four friends who are in the mood for puzzles then you might dig this mode.
Two additional things driving points for the game are the presentation and the value.
Presentation of the game game is good, definitely not 'next-gen'. You get some cute 3D graphics and some fantastic moving backgrounds, but other than that there isn't anything too overly complicated. Add in some nice lighting and shading and that should do you. Most of the graphics (as you can see through the pictures on this review) are cute and blocky.
For value, the game is great. For $9.99 you get a really long-lasting puzzle game that you can replay, thanks to the large amount of puzzles. It will keep you intrigued for around 10-15 hours. Re-read that last sentence. Think about it a bit. A game that costs $9.99 is going to occupy you longer than Dark Void, which costs $59.99. Frightening and quite nice.