Help two lovestruck pandas make a lasting connection in Land-a Panda
Pandas have it rough. Not only do they have dietary complications and finicky reproductive cycles, they now have to contend with aerial acrobatics in their quest for true love. I can only hope that the female pandas find the scent of gunpowder deeply appealing. A prime example of animal cruelty in video games, Big Pixel Games' Land-a Panda will have you catapulting our hero from cannon to cannon in an attempt to reunite him with his beloved.
It's a tough job, but someone has to propagate the species. Named after Edinburgh Zoo's first breeding pair of pandas in seventeen years, the protagonists have plenty of obstacles to surmount before they can even think of consummating their love. From angry birds (no, really! Well, sort of) to the ubiquitous spikes, the skyline of Panda Land is a veritable minefield. But the biggest challenge, however, lies in the network of cannons that serve as Yang Guang's means of transportation.
At first glance, Land-A-Panda can appear a little too easy compared to other physics puzzlers out there. Unlike many other titles, Land-A-Panda takes its time in building momentum, choosing instead to slowly ease players into the game. In fact, the first quarter of the initial world seems devoted to introducing one element after another. As glad as I am to see that the developers are concerned with accessibility, I can't help but feel that it's a bit of a mixed blessing - I know hardcore enthusiasts that might dismiss it off-hand because of this.
However, as the levels progress, the puzzles will eventually build up to a crescendo. By the time you're into the latter portion of the first world, you'll find yourself having to contend with the migratory patterns of green ghosts, spikes, free-wheeling cannons and everything in between. There is no margin for error. One false step (or tap of the finger, as the case may be) and you'll find yourself at the beginning of the stage yet again, Tian Tian's squeak of despair echoing through your ears.
My most traumatizing moment in Land-A-Panda had to be when I discovered that you will have to deposit Yang Guang correctly on Tian Tian's platform. I made the mistake of thinking that connecting
with his fuzzy paramour would be enough. Instead of a happy ending, I ended up watching in horror as Yang Guang, quite literally, bounced off her head and into oblivion.
It was terrible.
Luckily for the clumsy, however, Land-A-Panda does not force players to complete each stage before they progress to the next, which is something that helps to keep the experience relatively casual. It's a nice touch to be honest, but it subtracts a little from that 'one more level' experience. Big Pixel Games has done its best to cater both segments of the market and for the most part, they've been pretty successful - the competitive can work towards quickly collecting all three golden coins in a stage for the best score possible.
With four worlds currently playable and twenty levels in each, Land-A-Panda provides a pretty hefty experience for the price of admission, especially since it looks like the developers might plan for additional worlds with coming updates. It's definitely something I'm looking forward to as there are never really enough pandas in the world. Of course, Big Pixel Games' trademark artwork style definitely enhances the appeal of the game. Bright and colorful, the world in Land-A-Panda is, by and large, a cubical place filled with rounded corners and tiny details. I was absolutely and irrelevantly delighted over how the pandas will idly munch on bamboo shoots from time to time. Tian Tian's tears of grief are also, needless to say, absolutely heartbreaking.
Sound-wise, it's pretty much what you can expect from something so adorable; the ambient music is suitably cheerful, the audio effects diabetes-inducing.
A slick, well-done affair, Land-A-Panda is one of those games that you could easily play on the subway or while waiting for a presentation to start. Though it reminds me strangely of games like Angry Birds, Land-A-Panda is definitely still well worth investigating in its own right. If nothing else, the birds have had their fun; it's time for another species to dominate the skies instead.
- Absurdly cute, easy-to-master controls, addictive gameplay.
- Nothing we haven't seen somewhere before.