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Gals Panic (Arcade) artwork

Gals Panic (Arcade) review

"Your goal here is to move your icon around the square-shaped stage. You can move wherever you like so long as you like and not have to worry about dying. The minute you start drawing a line, though, you're vulnerable to attacks. Enemies are moving about along with you, and if they hit you while you're drawing, or shape you're drawing that you haven't completed, you lose a life."

No matter how many times I try and write a decent review for Gals Panic, I'm left remembering a painful fact: this is a game for teenage guys who want to look at breasts. I'm left wondering just how much attention I should give to gameplay. Tomb Raider's endless sequels have pretty much proven that a 14-year-old boy will put up with a lot of torture in exchange for some cleavage. While I'm describing the gameplay, most of you will likely be asking yourselves ''But are the girls hot and do I see a lot of skin?'' Therefore, I hope those of you who actually wonder if this is a good game will indulge me and tolerate the next paragraph with good humor.

The girls in this game are average at best. You see a lot of skin, but none of it is in the region around six inches below the belly button and between the legs. You'll see a lot of nipples and you'll see some faces that are fairly cute but not model material. These images are static, somewhat fuzzy, and they stay on-screen for somewhere between two and three seconds. On the off chance that you find them stunningly appealing, you'll be missing them almost before they've appeared.

Alright, so that's covered. But what about gameplay? What about overall presentation? Unfortunately, the answer is 'more of the same.' As Gals Panic fails with the pay-off, so too does it fail with the road that leads there. By no means a total disaster, this game is one that still won't inspire you to spend a whole lot of quarters. It's too frustrating, the quarters vanish too quickly, and the years haven't been kind to it in even the most general of senses.

First let's consider the graphics. There are basically four types of graphics here. The first type is what you see in the menus and credits. The title screen is quite bland, the closing credits equally so, and the intermissions between levels look like something from the 8-bit era of gaming. There's hardly any color variation, with bright, gaudy reds and greens serving as the order of the day. The second type of graphics is much more common; it's the typical stage background. As you progress from stage to stage, you'll be looking at new backgrounds. These are hand-drawn pictures of the different girls in the game, starting in alluring poses and maintaining those poses as clothing heads to greener pastures. These illustrations are actually pretty nice. Of course, they're mixed up with pictures of devils, ninjas, sheep and sea animals. The third type of graphics is more lively. Your playing piece, for lack of a better term, is an example of what I mean. It's just some sort of icon that floats around so you know where you're at. Then there are moving hazards: a spider with its offspring and web, a flaming fireball and sparks, and a rotating pyramid-shaped object that sometimes bursts apart to make itself more damaging. These objects move around atop the backgrounds I mentioned earlier. And of course, I've already described the fourth type of graphics, the digitized pictures that may or may not satisfy your need to view naked Japanese girls.

Along with the graphics are some sound effects. These are minimal. At first, they work quite well. As you meet with success in uncovering a background portrait, you'll hear a female voice congratulating you. On the right day, you might even find that voice attractive. She'll say ''Please be gentle'' and you'll feel this rush of hormones. Then you might try on another day in an attempt to disrobe a different one of the game's girls (you get to choose which one you'd like to strip). Guess what? She sounds just like the girl you undressed the day before! This is obviously a requirement of the limited technology back when this game was made. All in all, it's not a terrible blow to the game's value, but it is worth mentioning.

And now we've come down to the last category, which I'm touching on last only because it seems to be the last thing the developers had in mind when they made Gals Panic: the gameplay.

Though I've never played Qix, everything I've heard about it tells me that Qix was the title that inspired the gameplay in Gals Panic. Your goal here is to move your icon around the square-shaped stage. You can move wherever you like so long as you like and not have to worry about dying. The minute you start drawing a line, though, you're vulnerable to attacks. Enemies are moving about along with you, and if they hit you while you're drawing, or shape you're drawing that you haven't completed, you lose a life. One quarter gets you a credit, and each credit has three lives. If you get into the middle of a stage and plop in another quarter, it's literally possible to lose it within 10 seconds. This is because whenever you die, you begin where you left off. If you don't wait before resuming, you might simply run into the same foe that finished you off before... again, and again, and again.

Even if you do wait, there's likely another foe waiting in the wings. There are so many enemies rushing about that you can't possibly hope to avoid them for all that long. The space you have to work with decreases as you uncover more and more of the background, but the enemies seem to grow more numerous and they bounce about faster than ever. On top of it, there are often barriers you have to work around. Surrounding them is the only way to remove them, and I'm living proof that it's possible to complete every segment of the background except that occupied by the barrier and find yourself unable to complete the stage. This means that you really need to plan your strategy right from the start of an area, not as you go.

Another unpleasant fact is that you're working against a timer and a gauge. While the timer counts merrily down, so does your gauge. You start with a full gauge, but that can slowly drain as time passes without you clearing more of the stage. So if you're stuck waiting for bugs to bounce out of your way (and they seem to home in on you when you're doing that, which makes sitting still a bad strategy), your meter is also dropping. If it drops to a certain point, the stage will 'switch' and you'll find yourself struggling to complete a picture that has changed to that of a sheep, or a ninja, or whatever. Even worse is the fact that sometimes as this switch happens, for whatever reason, your board mostly clears itself and you 'beat' the stage. This means you get rewarded with a completed picture of some ugly creature, and you have to do that segment all over again.

There are other ways this can happen, too. Suppose you complete a background. You're then treated to the intermission bonus round. Here, you must stop a slot machine to win either an upgrade or a hazard. Upgrades are pitiful boosts to your gauge (they almost never do much good) or 30 seconds more on your timer. Downgrades are changes to your timer or gauge, or (and this is worst of all) you may land a prize that makes you re-complete the last stage you just conquered. Whenever this happens, you can't help but feel that it's unjust. It also means that a lot of luck is involved. It's possible to easily complete the three necessary stages to unlock one girl, then go to the next and find 20 quarters later that you're no closer to achieving your objective than you were when you began.

Of course, strategy helps you somewhat. There are a few tricks, such as snaking a narrow strand up through the center of the picture, then sectioning off bits until you win. Once you're aware of such strategies, the game becomes much simpler. It never really becomes 'simple,' though, nor is it ever really all that enjoyable. A more accurate description would be 'frustrating.'

With all that in mind, I come to the end of my review and realize that I've probably not helped you a whole lot. If you wanted to play the game when you started reading the review, it probably means you wanted to see cleavage. That can't have changed just because I described Gals Panic. And if you didn't want to play the game before, I doubt much has changed now, either. And so it is that I shall slink off to obscurity, tail between my legs, knowing that as lame as Gals Panic may be, I might even play it again one of these days. I'm a glutton for punishment like that sometimes.

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Staff review by Jason Venter (December 13, 2003)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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