Review: Trash Panic

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Attempting to jazz up the block-matching puzzle genre and make gamers more environmentally conscious at the same time, Trash Panic is the unique “action puzzle waste management” PSN download game from Sony Japan, and at only five bucks it’s as friendly on the wallet as it is on the environment. But even for so cheap, is the game worth adding to your PS3’s downloadable game collection?

It’s a tough call. Trash Panic has some neat ideas under its lid, but while playing it I never felt like all of those ideas came together quite as well as they could have.

Trash Panic plays similarly to falling-block puzzlers like Tetris, only instead of blocks you are dealing with garbage and various appliances, office supplies, and all sorts of other miscellaneous baubles and trinkets. As you play, objects are hauled in by a crane at the top-right corner of the screen and dropped above an open trash can, and as these objects fall you must find the best way to smash and arrange them in the can. The objective is to compact and dispose of a set amount of trash without overflowing the can, and to do so in an environmentally friendly way. Should your trash-compacting efforts fail and three pieces of garbage spill overboard, you lose.

There’s actually quite a bit more strategy to the game than just smashing objects into a trash can too, and you may also be surprised at how difficult the game often is – it can be downright frustrating sometimes. Different items have higher/lower durability – obviously something like a pencil or light bulb is going to be much easier to crush than a dumbbell or washing machine – and certain items resist breakage altogether, things like old tires for example. Certain items will also spill substances like oil and water into the trash can, and when combined with a match or decomposition ball you can light the garbage on fire or grow a fungus to help break things down quicker. How you decide to proceed impacts your score. Should you resort to burning a lot of trash you’ll leave a higher carbon footprint and finish with a lower score, but if you dispose of waste cleanly through ecological decomposition your score will be higher. It’s all about being eco-friendly!

This interesting gameplay concept is backed by a hefty amount of content too, especially for a $5 game. The main play mode, which has you disposing trash in a short series of different environments with progressively larger, more durable items, has three difficulties levels to contend with, and on top of that are Mission, Endless and two-player (offline only) VS modes. Online play is missing, but there are online leaderboards so you can compare your waste management skills with other agents of the green movement, and you can even record up to 10 minutes of play footage to upload and share on YouTube. Trash Panic looks and sounds great as well. The graphics are sharply detailed, the destruction physics are excellent, and the sound effects accompanying the trash destruction deliver a satisfying crunch. Of course, these flourishes also somehow cause the game to take up over a gig of HDD space, which is an important factor when dealing with downloadable games.

But as clever and mode-packed as Trash Panic is, something about it still left me feeling a bit cold. It is initially a lot of fun, but lacks the addictive hook of a great puzzle game and becomes stale rather quickly. After my first 10-15 minutes with the game, I felt like I’d seen all that I needed to see, and from then on it slowly lost my attention, to the point where now I really have no inclination to ever play it again. Such a cheap asking price is enticing, but I say exercise caution and go with the free demo version.

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Pros:
+ Inventive eco-friendly take on the block-falling puzzler
+ Good selection of modes and features
+ Sharp graphics
+ Only $5

Cons:
– Gets old pretty fast; lacks an addictive hook
– Can be frustratingly difficult at times
– No online play
– Takes up over 1GB in HDD space

Game Info:
Platform: PS3 via PSN
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SCEJ
Release Date: 6/4/09
Genre: Puzzle
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-2

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!