|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Eko System||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atari||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 5, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
It's no secret that I love puzzle games. I always look forward to reviewing them as it's a well-deserved break from blowing off the heads of aliens or spending months leveling-up a wizened wizard in a role-playing game. I treat puzzle games like a smorgasbord of mini-games. You can play them in bite-sized chunks, which is recommended since many of them tend to get repetitious, using the same formula only to increase the difficulty and change the background. They also make the perfect rental.
I don't always get a chance to play these games to the bitter end, but I don't feel guilty about it and neither should you. Rent the game, play it until you get bored or frustrated, and then send it back and get a new one. It's that simple. Puzzle games lend themselves to be great rentals because there isn't a storyline to make it feel as though you didn't complete it, but you do run the risk of addiction.
Downstream Panic is a highly imaginative puzzle game. It has a unique presentation and a gameplay style that may at first seem familiar, but it's a composite of various games. When put into action, the gameplay is truly original. You can expect to get addicted, but you can also expect to get frustrated. This game isn't easy, and there are elements of trial and error as well as pure dumb luck. Some technical issues conspire to make it more difficult than it should be, although I'm sure unintentionally.
Describing this game in words does little justice to it. You really have to see it, but allow me to attempt to relate it to you. Think of the game Centipede, but instead of a virtual centipede, a stream of water flows from the top of the screen on its way to the bottom. In this stream are numerous fish that you must help guide. Various obstacles will influence the direction and flow of the stream. It's up to you to manipulate these obstacles with various tools and techniques so that the fish in the stream make it safely to their destination at the bottom.
That's a general overview; now allow me to elaborate. The water follows a very convincing physics program that makes it appear naturally fluid. It flows, drips, spills, pours, rises, and ebbs in a surreal, fairytale-style environment. Obstacles in the environment consist of floating islands on which various trees, flowers, and other shrubbery can be grown. Then there are these globular forms that branch out to a variety of shapes. Mostly they conform to circular and U-shaped forms, which act as containers for the water. The water bounces around these various obstacles not unlike an organic pinball playfield, and can become trapped in the U-shaped globs. You can direct the path of the water, and ultimately the fish that swim in it, in numerous ways using the various tools at your disposal. You will also have to be careful to avoid the piranhas at the bottom of the screen. The more fish you end up with at the end of each level will determine how much money you earn. That money will come in handy in a later mode.
There are several ways to direct the path of the water. Seeds let you grow plants and trees on the floating islands. This floral growth will stop the flow of water in a specific direction and divert it to a more desirable location.