Scroll the rugged terrain beneath a bouncy, smiley spring to guide him through levels.
In recent years, we’ve seen lots of 2D, retro-style games appear alongside today’s fancy-pants motion control and cinematic cut scenes. But few titles throw it further back than Panic Springs, a single-bit blast from the past that rewinds gamers to the late 1970s and early ’80s.
With blocky graphics and a beeping soundtrack, Panic Springs is clearly inspired by the Atari 2600 library, which included Pitfall and Breakout. It borrows from those games’ simple gameplay, too. In Panic Springs, there’s just one command, which is to scroll the ground on the bottom of the field (from right to left) at varying speeds. The goal? Guide the ever-bouncing, springy character across the screen, without having it fall to its death in a ditch or running into an enemy, such as a flying skull. If you die, that’s it. You have to start all over at the very beginning. It’s this sort of unforgiving gameplay and straightforward objective that hearken back to the arcade days of Frogger and Asteroids. For example, if playing this game on your Mac, simply hold down the right arrow key on the keyboard. The more you hold down the button, the faster the ground is scrolled across the screen.
What’s surprising about Panic Springs is that, while the goal and controls are incredibly simple, there’s a fairly surprising amount of variety woven in. As our buoyant hero hops along, he can nab coins for extra points, or get power-ups, like the ability to shoot lasers, from bouncing on and killing consecutive enemies. Gameplay is mixed up every few levels, too. In level four, a behemoth-like creature with a gigantic, open maw will start chasing you, adding urgency and the pressure of speed to the task at hand. It’s definitely enough to keep you on your toes, and to keep your palms sweating, just as if you were handling a joystick in a Reagan-era mall arcade.
If the game had any cons, one might be that it can be construed as too shallow for some players, since it lacks the bells and whistles other modern games have. For example, while the game keeps track of your high score, certain people might like to share those achievements with others online, but Panic Springs doesn’t offer that option. The pretty basic controls and goal might also turn some players off, who might view the game as overly simplistic—a cheap assumption that would likely be dispelled if those players stuck with the game long enough.
Panic Springs is an intense, fast-paced side-scroller that would easily fit in with the leisure suits and feathered hairdos of yesteryear. But with its timelessly addictive gameplay and in-demand retro presentation, it fits in just fine in the twenty-first century, too.