Peter is a simple boy with a simple dream. All he wants is to star in a stage play at the theater he idolized while growing up. So Peter is surprised to find the theater in shambles when he arrives looking for a role to play, the building foreclosed on under mysterious circumstances. Thus begins the story of Peter Panic, a madcap minigame-laden musical from Adult Swim Games which may or may not involve Satan, Prince of Darkness.
You know what? Forget that last part. Totally not about Satan. Just a colorful game with cheery showtunes. Definitely no demons of any kind involved.
Peter Panic (iOS, free-to-play) launches out of the gate with a hilariously tongue-in-cheek musical number, and it never lets up during its half-dozen or so stages. All of the characters deliver their lines in "singtalk", constantly shifting between normal dialog and vocals like the most self-indulgent Andrew Lloyd Webber play you've ever seen. But rather than being murder on the ears, it's endearingly tongue-in-cheek, as its characters attempt to solve all of their problems through the magic of song - heck, most of the voice actors are actual Broadway stars.
Peter will travel far and wide (or at least down the length of a decent-sized city block), meeting factory workers, game designers, school teachers, and more in order to form a theater troupe, with cameos by Banjo-Kazooie composer Grant Kirkhope, QWOP designer Bennett Foddy, and more. Together, they'll put on a show that will put this little rundown stage back on the map, hopefully without resurrecting any of its old demons along the way.
Did I say demons? I meant… problems. Yes.
Uh, anyway. The game itself is basically a WarioWare clone, but it's a very well-made one of those. The stages presents an assortment of minigames, with each one taking a handful of seconds to complete. The trick about Peter Panic is that these games are launched at you at a rapid-fire pace, and it's up to you to learn what you need to do and act on it within the five or so seconds that you have. Every time you finish a set of five minigames, the pace picks up, and the games themselves get much more difficult to complete, becoming a frantic twitch-based juggling act the higher your score gets. The minigames are varied, including things like filling up boxes with packing peanuts, surviving as long as you can in a Flappy Bird clone, and drawing out a pentagram. Er, not a pentagram. A star. With candles surrounding it in a circle.
Don't worry about it.
It's not exactly the most innovative game in the world, but considering this is probably the world's first ever minigame collection wrapped up in a Broadway-inspired musical comedy, Peter Panic's less inspired bits feel a hell of a lot fresher than they would otherwise. The songs are energetic and catchy as hell, and the whole package has a confidence and verve, with jokes, lyrics, artwork, and minigames sharing a whimsical vibe that fully embraces the ridiculousness of its concept. Even the game's pitch by the actual development team to persuade me to drop the $2.99 to unlock the ability to save had me laughing, and I eagerly chucked them the cash for the privilege.
Perhaps my biggest complaint is that the story ends just as it's about to get going, though Peter Panic offsets that a bit by giving you plenty of opportunity to unlock new items for your theater, a handful of additional minigames, and the opportunity to go back to old levels and play for high scores. Plus, Act 2 is currently in development, and will even feature a level starring oddball D4 designer Swery 65 (seriously, check out this trailer) and will hopefully be available sooner rather than later. Even as short as it is, Peter Panic is a fabulous way to spend an hour or two, and a surprisingly good musical to boot. It's free to check out, so you literally have nothing to lose.
Well, nothing other than y o u r s o u l.