How does one defeat evil most foul, and ponder the machinations of a holy god? If Barracuda Disaster, developers of Solar Panic: Utter Distress had their say, it would involve a hefty number of butt jokes and pop culture references. Therein lies the key to understanding what exactly Solar Panic: Utter Distress does well. Is it idiot savant level comedic genius? Could it be a humorous, well-crafted hodgepodge of ideas? Is it possible that, during development, someone got intoxicated and challenged a flock of turkeys to a Royal Rumble? All of these things could be the culprit, there may be no honest way of knowing. What we do know is that the intricacies of Solar panic: Utter Distress will be detailed below in our Solar Panic: Utter Distress review.
Solar Panic: Utter Distress is a comedic adventure title that defines itself through eclectic weirdness, coupled with pop culture Easter eggs. On the first look, the low polygon models and strange structure interactions may put some people off. Sure, there are prettier games out there. Yes, there are games where, when you open a door, you don’t fly awkwardly on top of it half the time. Ask yourself, are those the kind of games you want to play? If yes is the answer, I agree with you, but Solar Panic: Utter Distress also deserves attention. Not in spite of the awkward moments, but because of them.
As Durwood Champney, you are some kind of secret agent, or some-such, and tasked with completing tasks from some type of association. The details are sketchy at best, but that seems to be the way Durwood likes it. With aid from your trusty dog and a moody clock named Mr. Constantine, you embark on a series of quests where you meet many ridiculous characters. To get the most out of your experience, exploration is key. Opening every container, looking behind every door, speaking with every person, even if they tell you they are a “filler character” brings you closer to the summit of enlightenment. That moment, when you realize, it isn’t about the journey, but the laughs along the way.
Throughout the game, you’ll meet characters resembling Austin Powers, Harry Potter, The Terminator, and many others. You’ll find a QR code to a “special video” that I won’t spoil here, and find references to video games like Grand Theft Auto and tv shows like Monty Python throughout the games’ progression. If you are like me, a lover of peculiarities, you may even get too wrapped up in all the ridiculousness to realize that most of what you’re doing, and even the namesake of the title, doesn’t make sense. The reality of the situation is, nothing has to, or even, should make sense.
Putting it plainly, many of the mini-games, combat systems, and more action-oriented tasks aren’t done exceptionally well. They are very simplistic, and barely taken seriously, as most of the time, they are used as conduits to push the story forward. A basis for comparison would be a game like Conkers Bad Fur Day, where the game play was more functionally challenging and used to accentuate the humor. In Solar Panic: Utter Distress, the areas of the game that actually have combat, are simply the means to an end, the punchline to a joke. That doesn’t mean that they don’t land the joke, but it does mean that, once the adventure is over, there isn’t an underlying system to come back to for fun.
Solar Panic: Utter Distress is a masterpiece of madness, in a good way. The game is short. There are areas that you wish had more content because you want to keep going. There are times you may get lost, or not understand exactly what you are supposed to do, with few ways to correct that trajectory. Still, what Barracuda Disaster has accomplished is a silly, strange title, that isn’t quite the comedic adventure Sam & Max’s Telltale titles are, but it’s one of the funniest adventure games that has hit the gaming scene in a long time.